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The Senate on Sunday approved the Democrats’ social spending and tax bill after a marathon “vote-a-rama” session that lasted more than 15 hours, marking a major victory for the Democrats’ agenda just over three months ago from election day.
Vice President Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to allow the legislation to pass 51-50.
“I mean, it’s the biggest climate package, it’s dealing with an energy policy that makes sense for its country, it’s reducing the cost of energy, it’s reducing the cost of health care for millions of Americans, and it’s doing it in a way that reduces the deficit and has fiscal fairness in our code,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told Fox News Digital. “It’s a great day and we’re very excited about it.”
“This is a night of triumph for them,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital. “Schumer had the longest 50-50 Senate in history. And he got almost all of his signature priorities passed.”
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Hawley added: “And with, by the way, the most unpopular president of my lifetime.”
The bill’s passage is the culmination of more than a year of intra-party negotiations among Democrats trying to pass a party-line bill. They used a process called budget reconciliation, which allows them to bypass Senate filibustering, to do so.
But even avoiding the filibuster, Democrats faced a major hiccup toward the end of their effort to pass it. A pension issue would have raised taxes on companies worth less than the Democrats’ proposed $1 billion threshold if they were subsidiaries of a company worth more than that amount.
Sen. John Thune, RS.D., introduced an amendment to address the issue, which cost $35 billion. But his proposal would have been paid for by extending the state and local tax (SALT) deduction limit for one year. That would have complicated passage of the final bill because many Northeastern Democrats loathe the SALT cap.
The Senate approved Thune’s amendment. But he changed how to pay for it by using an amendment from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to replace the SALT cap with “a two-year extension of the so-called damage limitation policy.” This amendment was passed with the help of Harris and paved the way for final approval.
After the last-second drama, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hailed the legislation as a major victory for the U.S.
“I am confident that the Inflation Reduction Act will last is one of the defining legislative achievements of the 21st century,” he said.
Originally called “Build Back Better” at the start of talks last year and proposed to cost more than $3 trillion, party moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., pushed back against the massive spending. Manchin eventually broke off the talks last December, to the dismay of party progressives and Schumer.
But Manchin agreed to a watered-down version in recent days called the “Inflation Reduction Act.” Manchin lobbied moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to join, which she did Thursday after some minor tweaks.
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The bill raises more than $700 billion in tax revenue and spends more than $400 billion. Key elements include expanding Affordable Care Act subsidies, a range of climate-related spending and tax credits, fossil fuel energy provisions, a 15% minimum corporate tax rate and more.
However, before Democrats could get legislation to clear the Senate, they had to overcome vote-a-rama. That gave Republicans an opportunity to introduce unlimited politically charged amendments in an attempt to either introduce poison pills into the bill or at least force Democrats to take tough votes.
But Democrats remained united on every key vote to keep the bill intact, which Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said was evidence of broad Democratic support for the legislation.
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“I think you’d be surprised at how many of these amendments are going to be unanimous … really clear party-line votes,” Coons said early in the process. “Much more than I’ve seen in previous polls.”
“They’re just steaming tonight,” Hawley said.
The vote-a-rama produced no major substantive changes to the bill, but it did produce some interesting fodder for the 2022 campaign. Republicans forced Democrats into tough votes on energy taxes and Title 42 immigration policy — an issue on which some Democrats seeking re-election have publicly broken with the White House.
In both cases, Democrats unanimously rejected the GOP amendments on 50-50 party-line votes before introducing similar amendments that procedurally require 60 votes to pass. That freed up moderates and Democrats in tight re-election races to vote for these amendments, knowing they wouldn’t pass.
Republicans attacked the moves as dishonest.
“It’s definitely a very cynical ploy,” Sen. Sen. Whip John Thune, RSD., told Fox News Digital. “Vote for one at 60 after just downvoting him at 51. But nothing around here surprises me.”
“They’re completely delusional,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, R-Gol., also told Fox News Digital.
“This gives fake and cynical a bad name. They wouldn’t let you do that in professional wrestling,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C.. “If you think people are that dumb, you’d be sadly mistaken.” .
Sen. Maggie Hassan, DN.H., herself running for re-election, pushed back against Graham’s criticism in remarks.
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“I’m just going to note the inaccuracy of what was said on the floor about the substance,” he said.
Republicans also criticized the substance of the bill, including that it raises taxes in a recession and that many outside observers say will have little effect on inflation.
Democrats, meanwhile, accuse Republicans of bringing all their amendments in bad faith. Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., said before the final vote that he would not support any GOOP amendment because Republicans plan to unanimously vote against the bill.
“[M]y R friends have made it clear that they are totally unwilling to support this Bill under any conditions. None of their amendments would change that. For this reason, I will vote to protect its integrity [Inflation Reduction Act] regardless of the substance of their bogus amendments,” Manchin tweeted Saturday.
The House of Representatives is set to return to Washington, D.C., on Friday to pass the bill, sending it to President Biden’s desk.