Senate passes Democrats’ sweeping climate, health and tax bill, delivering win for Biden

Washington – The Senate approved the sweep of Democrats on Sunday economic package designed to combat climate change, address health care costs and raise taxes on big corporations, marking a crucial victory for President Biden and his party as they seek to retain control of Congress in the midterm elections November mandate.

The plan, called the Inflation Reduction Act, passed the upper house on a 51-50 vote along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate. Democrats used a fast-track legislative process known as reconciliation to pass the measure over unanimous opposition from Republicans.

“It’s been a long, hard, and winding road, but finally, finally, we’re here,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor as members prepared to vote on the ‘final approval. “Today, after more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history. I am confident that the Inflation Reduction Act will live on as one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century.”

The vote came after a marathon session that lasted through the night and into Sunday afternoon, with Democrats applauding as members cast their final votes. In a process known as a “vote-a-rama,” Republicans offered a series of amendments that Democrats successfully suppressed during nearly 16 hours of debate.

GOP senators managed to block a provision that would have limits the price of insulin to $35 per month for those covered by private health care plans. Democrats needed 60 votes to waive the reconciliation rules and keep that part of the bill, but it failed 57-43, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in support of the measure.

House Democratic leaders announced last week that the lower chamber will return from its month-long recess on Friday to take up the legislation, which is expected to pass.

Mr. Biden praised Senate Democrats for passing the plan and acknowledged that “a lot of compromises” were needed. He urged the House to quickly pass the bill.

“Today, Senate Democrats have sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share,” the president said in a statement. “I ran for president promising to get government back to work for working families, and that’s what this bill does, period.”

The package is the culmination of months of negotiations over Mr. Biden’s domestic policy agenda, which at times appeared to be on life support but was revived late last month with the surprise announcement of a deal between Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 6: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks smart

Senator Joe Manchin talks with his staff on Capitol Hill in Washington on August 6, 2022.

Shuran Huang for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Although the legislation is much more limited than the sprawling $3.5 trillion proposal Mr. Biden presented last year, the tailored package was supported by Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from ‘Arizona. support was crucial.

Still, Democrats are praising the plan as their answer to addressing rising consumer prices and for its investment of nearly $400 billion in the fight against climate change, the largest ever. The package allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, a key Democratic priority expected to save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. It also extends enhanced health insurance subsidies that were set to expire at the end of the year and imposes a minimum tax of 15% on most companies that make more than $1 billion each year.

The corporate tax provision emerged as a point of contention as senators neared a final vote on Sunday. Seven Democratic senators — Sinema, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly and Jacky Rosen — joined Republicans in supporting an amendment introduced by Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota that exempts some companies with the support of private capital. of the minimum corporate tax rate of 15%. This amendment was approved by 57 to 43.

To promote clean energy, the measure includes tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. It also offers rebates to consumers who buy energy-efficient appliances and provides $4 billion for drought relief.

Schumer praised the bill as the “boldest climate package” in U.S. history, calling it a “game changer” and “tipping point.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

One piece of the Democrats’ drug pricing plan, which imposed penalties on drugmakers who raised prices above inflation to private insurers, was Removed after it was reviewed by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. His approval of the rest of the package, however, cleared the way for the upper house to move forward with its consideration of the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation will reduce the deficit by $102 billion over the next 10 years. Republicans, however, argued that the plan will have little impact on inflation and will instead raise taxes and lead to job losses.

In one interview on “Face the Nation” On Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, said the Democrats’ drug pricing plan will hurt seniors, while the tax component will raise taxes on Americans.

“Why would you raise the cost of government? We’re raising taxes,” he said.

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