After years of stagnant climate policy, months of excruciating political negotiations and a marathon weekend of back-to-back votes, the Senate passed Democrats’ sweeping climate and health care bill on Sunday.
The estimated $740 billion package, called the Inflation Reduction Act, includes nearly $400 billion in climate spending — by far the largest climate investment in the country’s history. The plan would be largely paid for by new taxes, including a 15 percent minimum tax on the handful of companies with annual profits of about $1 billion.
The bill represents a fraction of the climate investment Democrats dreamed of when Joe Biden took office, but it includes policies that are expected to help America reduce its climate pollution by 40 percent by 2030. (Like Vox notesThat’s a little less dramatic than it sounds: The basis for the reduction is 2005, when emissions peaked, and the country was on track to cut its emissions by 20 percent by 2030 without the legislation.) If the policy passed, taxpayers’ money will fund credits and rebates for renewable energy, energy efficiency technology and electric cars. It will also fund climate resilience projects and pollution monitoring in vulnerable communities and punish fossil fuel companies for excess methane emissions.
While the package has made headlines for its climate action, it also includes major health care reforms, including policies that would allow Medicare to negotiate certain prescription drugs for the first time, extend expiring subsidies that help millions of people buy health insurance. pay, and-of-pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare up to $2,000 per year.
After overcoming initial opposition from Senator Joe Manchin and pushing back Senator Kyrsten Sinema at the last minute, Democrats were united in the 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the decisive vote. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives.
“It’s been a long, difficult and winding road, but we’re finally here,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said just before the final vote.