October 4, 2022

Senate Democrats voted through their signature legislation to address climate change and prescription drug prices early Sunday morning, sending 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 reduce domestic emissions at a time when global targets are faltering. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, limit insulin costs for Medicare recipients, and continue subsidies for Obamacare.

The vote came after a marathon series of votes known as “vote-a-rama” that began late Saturday night and went through Sunday afternoon. All 50 voted for the bill along with Vice President Kamala Harris, while all Republicans voted for the bill.

“This is an example of leaders leading, understanding that there are solutions at hand if people have the willingness and courage to actually step up and fix the problem,” Ms Harris said. The independent.

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, where it will likely pass if only 9 of the 220 Democratic members oppose it. The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the bill into law.

The legislation comes after Democrats spent more than a year trying to pass President Joe Biden’s signature domestic legislation. Mr. Biden originally hoped to pass a massive social spending bill that included spending for an expanded child tax credit. home care for the disabled; expanded hearing coverage for Medicare recipients; immigration reform? and stronger efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy. They hoped to pass it alongside the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic senator from West Virginia, announced opposition legislation known as Build Back Better in December. That led to ongoing negotiations between Mr Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Late last month, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin announced a deal known as the Lower Inflation Act, a nod to Mr. Manchin’s concern about rising prices.

It will also boost America’s credibility on the international stage as Mr Biden plans to head to Egypt for COP27, where he will demand other big polluters in China, Europe and beyond to drastically reduce their use of fossil fuels.

The bill proposes $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments, including billions of dollars in tax incentives to expand renewables, battery storage and nuclear power over the next 10 years.

The legislation also provides tax credits to make it easier to buy electric vehicles, help farmers reduce agricultural emissions, and fund improvements in minority and low-income communities hit hardest by climate and environmental pollution.

Several new analyzes of the IRA, by independent policy groups, found that it would cut emissions by about 40 percent (below 2005 levels) by the end of the decade. It puts the US a long way from President Joe Biden’s pledge to cut US emissions in half by 2030.

Some climate activists and environmental groups opposed aspects of the bill that were necessary for Mr. Manchin, who has made a fortune from his state’s coal industry, to participate, such as requiring the government to auction off leases for oil drilling and natural gas. public land and water, including the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska;

Coal and natural gas plants using carbon capture technology will also receive expanded tax credits. Mr. Manchin received a separate promise that the progress allowed would be accelerated on the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in West Virginia.

At the same time, many Democratic senators said they would not vote for any amendments to the legislation, recognizing it as the only chance to pass any major climate legislation.

Many Democrats also expressed enthusiasm that it would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. But Senate Rep. Elizabeth MacDonough issued guidance that weakens part of the legislation that would have forced drug companies to give rebates to Medicare if they raised drug prices higher than inflation.

The congresswoman dealt another blow to Democrats when she announced that her plan to cap insulin for patients with private insurance at $35 did not follow the rules of the budget deal. That led Republicans to raise a procedural issue to remove it from the bill.

Democrats would need 60 votes to keep the price of insulin at $35 for patients with private insurance in the legislation, but only seven Republicans voted to keep it.

Similarly, Republican Sen. Whip John Thune sought to include a cap on the Democrats’ proposed minimum corporate tax for some private equity-linked companies as a means to win over conservative Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. But the amendment would have put the legislation at risk in the House because it continued a cap on state and local tax cuts that went into effect during the Trump tax cuts, which many Democrats in New York, New Jersey and California they oppose.

Six Democrats joined Ms. Sinema, including Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Mark Kelly of Arizona; and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia proposed a substitute amendment that passed with all Democratic votes.

Despite the setbacks, Democrats passed the legislation early Sunday night.

Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who as chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is responsible for electing Democrats and protecting incumbents, said the prescription drug aspect will help Democrats on the campaign trail.

“If you look at the polls it’s like the number one issue for most people in the country right now,” he said The independent during the vote to start the debate on the bill.

Democrats also received a life raft when Republicans failed to raise a point of order to remove the part of the legislation that would have allowed non-Medicare patients to limit their insulin costs.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who criticized the bill as inadequate, proposed an amendment that would allow Medicare to negotiate all drug prices instead of just ten drugs initially by 2024 and 20 drugs by 2029.

“I think it’s absolutely imperative that this Congress, at least in one party, say that we understand the crises that working families face and we’re going to stand with them and pass some serious amendments to improve this bill. “, he told reporters on Saturday afternoon.

But Mr. Sanders’ amendment on drug prices, as well as an amendment to include dental, hearing and vision in Medicare coverage, both failed with most Democrats opposing the legislation.

Despite the internal disagreement, many Democrats welcomed the bill’s passage. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said it shows that Democrats can take on special interest groups.

“I mean, it’s the first time you think about it, we took on, we took on the drug companies that never lose. We took on the oil companies that never and rarely lose and we conquered Wall Street and we were winning on all three and how important that is,” he said.

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