WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats have agreed to eleventh-hour changes to their economic legislation, they announced Thursday afternoon, clearing a major impediment to pushing one of President Joe Biden’s top election-year priorities to through the chamber in the coming days.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the centrist seen as the swing vote in the 50-50 chamber, said in a statement that she had agreed to renew some of the tax and energy provisions of the measure and was ready to “move forward.” on the invoice
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he believed his party’s energy, environment, health care and tax commitment “will receive the support of the entire” Democratic membership of the chamber. His party needs unanimity and the tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris to move the measure to the Senate amid some strong opposition from Republicans, who say the plan’s tax increases and spending would worsen inflation and hurt the economy
The announcement came as a surprise, with some expecting talks between Schumer and the mercurial Sinema to drag on for days with no guarantees of success. Schumer has said he wants the Senate to begin voting on the legislation on Saturday, after which it would begin its summer recess. Passage through the House, which Democrats tightly control, could come when that chamber briefly returns to Washington next week.
Democrats revealed few details of their commitment, and other hurdles remained. Still, the final approval of Congress would complete a surprising resurrection of Biden’s broad national goals, albeit in a more modest form.
Democratic infighting had embarrassed Biden and forced him to scale back a much larger and more ambitious $3.5 trillion, 10-year version, and then a $2 trillion alternative, leaving the effort all but dead . Instead, Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia maverick Democrat who derailed Biden’s earlier efforts, unexpectedly negotiated the slimmer package two weeks ago.
Its passage would allow Democrats to appeal to voters by boasting that they are taking steps to reduce inflation, although analysts say the impact would be smaller, address climate change and increase US energy security.
“Tonight, we took another critical step toward reducing inflation and the cost of living for American families,” Biden said in a statement.
Sinema said Democrats had agreed to eliminate a provision that raised taxes on “accumulated interest,” or profits that go to executives at private equity firms. This has been a proposal he has long opposed, even though it is a favorite of Manchin and many progressives.
The reported interest provision was estimated to generate $13 billion for the government over the next decade, a small portion of the measure’s $739 billion in total revenue.
It will be replaced by a new excise tax on stock buybacks that will generate more revenue than that, said a Democrat familiar with the deal. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the deal publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide any other details.
Sinema said it had also agreed to unspecified provisions to “protect advanced manufacturing and drive our clean energy economy.”
He noted that Senate Rep. Elizabeth MacDonough is still reviewing the measure to ensure that no provision should be removed to violate the chamber’s procedures. “Subject to the parliamentarian’s review, I will move forward,” Sinema said.
The measure must adhere to those rules for Democrats to use procedures that will prevent Republicans from raising filibusters, delays that require 60 votes to stop.
Schumer said the measure kept the bill’s language on prescription drug pricing, climate change, “closing tax loopholes exploited by big corporations and the wealthy” and reducing federal deficits.
He said the bill “addressed a number of important issues” that Democratic senators raised during the talks. He said the final measure “will reflect that work and move us one step closer to enacting this landmark legislation.”
It was unclear whether changes had been made to the bill’s 15% minimum corporate tax, a provision that Sinema has been keen to review. It would raise about $313 billion, making it the largest revenue raiser in the legislation.
That fee, which would apply to about 150 corporations with more than $1 billion in revenue, has been strongly opposed by businesses, including Sinema’s Arizona groups.
The final measure was expected to include the assistance that Sinema and other western senators have sought to add to help their states cope with the epic drought and wildfires that have become commonplace. Those lawmakers have been seeking about $5 billion, but it was unclear what the final language would do, said a Democrat after the negotiation who would describe the effort only on condition of anonymity.
The measure will also have to endure a “vot-a-rama,” a nonstop stream of amendments that is expected to last well into the weekend, if not beyond. Republicans want to kill as much of the bill as possible, either with the parliamentarian’s rulings or with the amendments.
Even if their amendments lose, as most are sure to, Republicans will consider mission accomplished if they force Democrats to take risky votes during the campaign season on sensitive issues like taxes, inflation and the immigration
Democratic amendments are also expected. Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has said he wants to strengthen his health care benefits.
The overall bill would raise $739 billion in revenue. This would come from increased taxes on high incomes and some large corporations, improved tax collection by the IRS, and lower drug prices, which would save money for the government and patients.
Much of that would be spent on initiatives that help clean energy, fossil fuels and health care, including helping some people buy private health insurance. That would still leave more than $300 billion in the deficit reduction measure.