The US Senate has approved Joe Biden’s flagship economic package after a marathon overnight voting session that gave the president a major political victory just months before the midterm elections.
The climate, tax and health care bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, passed 51 to 50, with the vote split along party lines and Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote in an equally divided Senate.
The bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by the president before it becomes law, but its passage through the Senate is the most important in a series of recent victories for Biden, already which aims to defend small majorities in both houses in November. .
Earlier this summer, lawmakers voted on bills providing new subsidies for U.S. chipmakers and agreed to bipartisan gun control legislation after deadly shootings in Texas and New York.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes some of the most important climate legislation enacted in the US, with $369 billion dedicated to climate and clean energy programs. It also includes new measures that allow the government to negotiate to lower prescription drug prices, a provision for a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations and a new 1 percent tax on share buybacks.
However, Kyrsten Sinema, the centrist senator from Arizona, and six other Democrats joined Republicans in voting for a last-minute amendment that would create a private equity split from the proposed minimum corporate tax.
Business groups and Republicans have fiercely opposed the imposition of the 15 percent minimum tax, arguing that it would stifle investment and hurt American exporters.
While most Republican efforts to amend the bill during the long legislative session failed, GOP lawmakers on Sunday morning successfully removed a $35 price cap for packaged insulin. The cap will still apply to Medicare patients.
In a statement, Biden said the bill would “put government back to work for working families” by reducing the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance and everyday energy costs while reducing the deficit .
“It required a lot of compromise,” Biden said. “Doing important things almost always does.”
Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, praised the bill as “one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century.”
“Our bill lowers inflation, lowers costs, creates millions of good-paying jobs, and is the boldest climate package in American history,” Schumer said, speaking on the Senate floor. “This bill will usher in the era of affordable clean energy in America. It’s a game changer. It’s an inflection point. And it’s been a long time coming.”
Climate advocates welcomed the passage of the historic bill. “The Senate just made climate history,” said Manish Bapna, executive director of the National Resources Defense Council. “This is the most important action the US has ever taken to combat climate change.”
“This bill is not perfect, but from a climate pollution perspective, the positives far outweigh the negatives, by a factor of 10,” Bapna said.
A separate analysis by the Rhodium Group, a clean energy consultancy, estimated that the IRA could put the US on track to reduce emissions by 31 to 44 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, compared with a reduction of 24-35% without the legislation.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said her chamber will “move quickly” to send the bill to the president’s desk.
The passage of the final bill in the Senate follows weeks of dramatic intra-party negotiations among Democrats, including a surprise reversal by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
Manchin had refused to support earlier versions of the package, arguing it would fuel inflation, killing Democrats’ chances of passing the bill in a closely divided chamber.
However, Manchin and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer negotiated an agreed-upon bill late last month, before winning Sinema’s support last week.
He threw his support behind the bill after Democrats agreed to eliminate a provision that altered the preferential treatment of private equity and hedge fund profits known as “carried interest.”