Senate Democrats passed their signature legislation early Sunday morning to tackle climate change and prescription drug prices and send the legislation to the House of Representatives.
The legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, would be the biggest step the US government has taken to cut domestic emissions at a time when global targets falter. It will also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, limit the cost of insulin to Medicare recipients, and continue subsidies for Obamacare.
The vote came after a marathon series of votes known as a “vote-a-rama” that began late Saturday night and lasted well into Sunday afternoon. All 50 voted for the legislation along with Vice President Kamala Harris, while all Republicans voted for the legislation.
“This is an example of leaders taking the lead and understanding that solutions are available if people have the willingness and courage to actually step forward and solve the problem,” said Ms Harris. The independent.
The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass if only 9 of Democrats’ 220 members oppose it. The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the bill.
The legislation comes after Democrats spent more than a year trying to pass President Joe Biden’s signature domestic legislation. Mr Biden initially hoped to approve a huge social spending bill, including spending on an expanded child tax credit; home care for people with disabilities; comprehensive hearing coverage for Medicare recipients; immigration Reformation; and stronger efforts to fight climate change and promote clean energy. They hoped to pass it along with his bipartisan infrastructure bill.
But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic Senator from West Virginia, announced his opposition legislation known as Build Back Better in December. That led to ongoing negotiations between Mr. Manchin and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer. Late last month, Mr Schumer and Mr Manchin announced a deal known as the Inflation Reduction Act, a nod to Mr Manchin’s concerns about rising prices.
It will also boost America’s credibility on the international stage as Mr Biden plans to go to Egypt for COP27 where he will demand that other major emitters in China, Europe and beyond sharply cut their own use of fossil fuels. .
The bill proposes $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments, including billions of dollars in tax incentives to expand renewable energy, battery storage and nuclear power over the next 10 years.
The legislation also provides for tax breaks to make buying electric vehicles easier, help farmers reduce agricultural emissions and fund improvements in minorities and low-income communities most affected by climate and environmental pollution.
Several new analyzes from the IRA, from independent policy groups, found that emissions would have fallen by about 40 percent by the end of the decade (below 2005 levels). It puts the US a short distance from President Joe Biden’s pledge to halve US emissions by 2030.
Some climate activists and environmental groups objected to aspects of the bill needed to bring Mr. Manchin, who has made a fortune from his state’s coal industry, on board, such as a requirement that the government lease oil and gas drilling leases on public lands. lands and waters, including in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska.
Coal and gas plants that use carbon capture technology also receive extensive tax credits. Mr. Manchin was given a separate promise that permitting progress would be accelerated with the Mountain Valley gas pipeline in West Virginia.
At the same time, many Democratic senators said they would not vote on any amendments to the legislation, recognizing that this is their only chance to pass key climate legislation.
Many Democrats also expressed excitement that this would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. But Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough issued guidelines to weaken some of the legislation that would force drug companies to cut Medicare if they set drug prices higher than inflation.
The MP dealt another blow to Democrats when she announced that the plan to limit insulin for private insurance patients to $35 did not meet budget alignment rules. That prompted Republicans to put forward a point of order to remove it from the bill.
Democrats would have needed 60 votes to keep the price of insulin at $35 for private insurance patients in the legislation, but only seven Republicans voted to keep it in.
Similarly, Republican Senate minority whip John Thune attempted to include an exception to the Democrats’ proposed minimum corporate tax on certain private equity affiliates as a means of transferring conservative Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. to fetch. However, the amendment would have jeopardized legislation in the House as it would continue to put a limit on state and local tax deductions introduced during Trump’s tax cuts, which many Democrats in New York, New Jersey and California are opposed to. .
Six Democrats joined Ms. Sinema, including Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock; Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada; Mark Kelly from Arizona; and Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner offered a replacement amendment that passed with all Democratic votes.
Despite the setbacks, Democrats passed the legislation early on Sunday night.
Michigan Senator Gary Peters, who as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is responsible for Democrat election and protection of incumbent officials, said the prescription drug aspect will help Democrats on the campaign path.
“If you look at polls, this is the number one problem for most people in the country right now,” he said The independent during the vote to start the debate on the bill.
Democrats were also given a life raft when Republicans failed to put forward a point of order to remove the part of the legislation that would allow non-Medicare patients to cut their insulin costs.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who criticized the bill as inadequate, proposed an amendment to allow Medicare to negotiate all drug prices instead of just 10 drugs initially by 2024 and 20 drugs by 2029.
“I think it’s imperative that this Congress, at least on one party, says that we understand the crises facing working families, and that we’re going to stand behind them, and we’re going to vote for some serious amendments to address this.” to improve the bill. ‘ he told reporters on Saturday afternoon.
But Mr. Sanders’ amendment on drug prices, as well as an amendment to include dental, hearing and eye care in Medicare coverage, both failed, as most Democrats oppose the legislation.
Despite the internal disagreement, many Democrats welcomed the bill’s approval. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said it showed Democrats could take on special interest groups.
“I mean, this is the first time you think about this, we were up against the pharmaceutical companies that never lose. We took on the oil companies that never lose and we took on Wall Street and we won on all three and how important that is,” he said.