US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a press conference to promote the $430 billion drug price, energy and tax bill championed by Democrats in the US Capitol United in Washington, on August 5, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats approved a sweeping economic and climate package on Sunday, putting President Joe Biden and his party on the cusp of a major legislative victory just three months before crucial midterm elections in November.
After a marathon overnight Senate session, the 51-50 vote was strictly along party lines, with all Republicans voting no and all Democrats voting yes. After Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote, Democrats stood and applauded.
The legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, now heads to the House, which is scheduled to return from summer recess on Friday, pass it and send it to Biden’s desk for his signature .
“It’s been a long, hard, and winding road, but we’re finally here. I know it’s been a long day and a long night. But we got it done today,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier . the final vote.
“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 755-page bill includes $430 billion to fight climate change and expand health coverage, paid for by savings on prescription drugs and corporate taxes. Invest hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit reduction.
Most of the spending, more than $300 billion, is investments to tackle climate change and boost clean energy, including incentives for farmers and ranchers to reduce methane emissions; an extension of the tax deduction for electric vehicles; and the launch of a National Climate Bank that would make investments in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency. The legislation would allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies for the first time, reducing prescription drug prices for seniors. The savings would help pay for a three-year extension of Affordable Care Act subsidies, which would prevent a expected increase in insurance premiums which would take effect in 2023. The package includes a cap on the price of insulin for seniors on Medicare, but Republicans successfully eliminated a $35 cap on insulin on the private market. The bill also raises revenue through a new minimum 15% tax on large corporations, though accelerated depreciation would be exempt, a key question from centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who drew several tax changes of leadership before boarding with the package.Sinema also successfully eliminated a provision to close the interest tax loophole that benefits hedge fund and private equity managers. It was replaced, with Sinema’s support, by a 1% special tax on share buybacks that actually generates more revenue than the interest provision would.
Legislation quickly came together. Less than two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.V., announced a surprise offer on some of the party’s top agenda items that many Democrats believed had no chance of becoming law this year.
Democrats see the sweeping package as the latest in an unusual streak legislative victories for a Congress typically mired in partisan confusion. Last year saw a trillion dollar infrastructure package, the most important gun reform legislation in a generation, a major semiconductor and science competitiveness package, a bill to help veterans exposed to burn pits and a vote to admit Finland and Sweden to NATO amid a standoff. with Russia
“Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have been with Big Oil, with Big Pharma to protect their profits, and we’ve been trying for years” to cut costs, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., head of the Democratic Policy Committee, told the NBC News.
“This is the big time here with these forces,” he said, “and the people will win.”
Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., a progressive rival and Biden’s only 2020 presidential challenger, also pointed to recent progress in Congress.
“I don’t know if there’s been a Congress and a president that has been as productive as we’ve seen in this Congress,” he said in an interview. “This president continues to introduce historic bills that meet the urgent needs of the American public.”