WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats approved sweeping legislation targeting health care, climate and taxes along a party-line vote Sunday, delivering a major win for President Joe Biden and his agenda ahead of the midterm elections.
The Senate to pass the Inflation Reduction Actwhich includes record spending on clean energy initiatives, measures to reduce prescription drug prices and a tax overhaul to ensure the large corporations pay income taxes. Every Democrat voted in support and every Republican against the measure.
It now heads to vote in the Democratic-controlled House, where it’s expected to pass as early as Friday.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., called the bill a “defining legislative feat of the 21st century” and “the boldest climate package in US history” on the Senate floor ahead of the final vote.
“To those of you who have lost faith that Congress can do big things, this bill is for you,” he said.
Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the measure following more than a grueling, overnight session of debate, amendments and negotiation. The 15-hour ‘vote-a-rama’ that began at 11:30 pm ended with Harris deciding vote on final passage.
The bill – initially negotiated by Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. – tackles long-standing progressive priorities even though the White House’s loftier ambitions to expand the social-safety net in last year’s Build Back Better bill were scrapped during a roller-coaster year of negotiations among Democrats.
“This is the action that the American people have been waiting for,” Biden said in the days leading up to the vote.
The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices – long opposed by the pharmaceutical industry – and extend Affordable Care Act subsidies three more years through 2025.
To address climate change, the bill includes $10 billion in tax credits to build electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines; $7,500 tax credit rebates for consumers to buy electric vehicles; and $9 billion for energy-efficient home retrofits for low-income Americans.
There’s also up to $20 billion for loans to support electric vehicle plants, $20 billion to assist farmers and ranchers with climate change, and $30 billion for cities and states to transition utilities to clean electricity.
To pay for these and other measures, the bill would establish a 15% corporate minimum tax and beef up enforcement of the Internal Revenue Service.
The bill would raise an estimated $739 billion in new tax revenue, more than offsetting the $433 billion in proposed new spending. The legislation would decrease the federal deficit by $102 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill didn’t pass completely unscathed: Republicans stripped a $35 monthly cap on insulin co-pays via amendment, arguing the provision violated the reconciliation rules. Seven Republicans sided with Democrats to try to keep the measure in place: GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisin, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
Democrats still lowered the cost of insulin through Medicare in the bill, as Republicans’ amendment only targeted the cap on insulin co-pays for private insurers.
Negotiations for the legislation appeared dead on multiple occasions, picking back up only in recent weeks and culminating in a surprise agreement by Schumer and Manchin last week.
Democrats finally secured enough support to pass the bill in the evenly divided Senate when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said Thursday she would vote for it after securing commitments on drought relief and tax changes.
Amid 40-year high inflation, Democrats framed and titled the legislation as a way to bring down consumer costs, but economists disagree on how effective it will be in that regard.
The University of Pennsylvania’s widely used Penn Wharton budget model predicted the impact on inflation would be “statistically indistinguishable from zero” over the long-term and slightly increase inflation before 2024.
But an analysis from Moody’s Analytics found the legislation would “nudge the economy and inflation in the right direction, while meaningfully addressing climate change and reducing the government’s budget deficits.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism