February 25, 2024

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at a press conference in which Democratic senators demanded passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.Allison Bailey/AP

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After years of stagnant climate policy, months of excruciating political negotiations and a marathon weekend of back-to-back votes, the Senate on Sunday voted down the Democrats’ climate and health care bills.

The estimated $740 billion package, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, includes nearly $400 billion in climate spending — by far the largest climate investment in the nation’s history. The plan would be largely paid for by new taxes, including a minimum tax of 15 percent on the few companies with annual profits of about $1 billion.

The bill represents a fraction of the climate investment that Democrats dreamed of when Joe Biden took office, but it includes policies expected to help America reduce climate pollution by 40 percent by 2030. (As Voice notes, that’s a little less dramatic than it sounds: The baseline for the reduction is 2005, when emissions peaked and the nation was on track to reduce its emissions by 20 percent by 2030 without the legislation.) If enacted, the policy will fund tax 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 penalize fossil fuel companies for excessive methane emissions.

While the package has made headlines for its climate measures, it also includes major health care reforms, including policies that would allow Medicare to negotiate certain prescription drug prices for the first time, extend expiring subsidies that help millions of people pay for health insurance and limit out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare to $2,000 a year.

After overcoming initial opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin and a last-minute push from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Democrats were tied on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie. The bill now heads to the House.

“It’s been a long, hard and winding road, but we’re finally, finally here,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said shortly before the final vote.

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