The Senate passes the Democrats’ comprehensive climate, health and tax bills, giving Biden victory

Washington – The Senate passed the Democrats’ sweep on Sunday economical package designed to fight climate change, address health care costs and raise taxes on big corporations, marking a crucial achievement for President Biden and his party as they seek to maintain their grip on Congress in November’s midterm elections.

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

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

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

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

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 surprise announcement of a deal between Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 6: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks with
Senator Joe Manchin chats 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 narrower than the grand $3.5 trillion proposal floated by Biden last year, the tailored package had the support of Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat whose support was essential.

Still, Democrats are praising the plan as their response to rising consumer prices and for investing nearly $400 billion in 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 making 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 GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota that exempts certain firms with private equity backing. from 15% minimum corporation tax rate. This amendment passed 57 to 43.

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

Schumer hailed the bill as the “boldest climate package” in US history, calling it a “game-changer” and “tipping point”.

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

Part of the Democrats’ plan for drug pricing — imposing penalties on drugmakers that raised prices above inflation on private insurers — was removed after it was reviewed by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. However, her approval of the rest of the package cleared the way for the upper chamber to proceed with consideration of the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation would cut the deficit by $102 billion over the next 10 years. However, Republicans argued that the plan would have little impact on inflation and instead raise taxes while leading to job losses.

In a interview with “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, argued that the Democrats’ drug pricing plan would hurt seniors, while the tax component would raise taxes on Americans.

“Why would you want to increase the cost to the state? We’re increasing taxes,” he said.

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