Senate Democrats pass health, climate and tax inflation-reducing legislation

After more than a year of painstaking and dramatic negotiations, Democrats on Capitol Hill finally passed a sweeping climate, tax and health bill on Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t quite as comprehensive as most Democrats would have liked. What was once supposed to be a $5 trillion bill – and then $3.5 trillion, then $3 trillion, then $1.5 trillion and then $1 trillion – ended up being a $400 billion measure, distributed over the next 10 years, that would actually reduce deficits by more than $300 billion over that period by closing tax loopholes.

It’s hardly the package President Joe Biden and the vast majority of Democrats had sought, but it’s what Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would allow them. And even if Democrats had hoped for more, they were thrilled to cap off one of Biden’s best weeks in office with passing the bill.

“After more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said just before the bill passed. “This legislation will usher in the era of affordable clean energy in America, it’s a game changer, it’s a game changer and it’s been a long time coming.”

The Senate approved the bill 51-50 Sunday afternoon, with all Democrats voting in favor of the bill and all Republicans voting against. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie and approved the bill thanks to the legislative process called Reconciliation, which removes the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for bills that meet certain conditions.

The bill now goes to the US House of Representatives, where there are no serious concerns that the Democratic majority there will defeat the bill, which eventually won unanimous support from Senate Democrats.

“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families on special interests and voted to cut prescription drug costs, reduce health insurance and everyday energy costs, and reduce the deficit while the wealthiest companies finally pay their fair share ‘ President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I ran for President and I promised to put government back to work for working families, and this bill does exactly that — period.”

In light of their biggest policy challenge right now, Democrats branded the bill an “Inflation Reduction Act,” packed with a grab bag of various policy priorities in the areas of climate change, healthcare and tax reform.

Passing the bill was followed by a nearly 16-hour debate on amendments — known as “vote-a-rama” — in which senators from both sides of the aisle proposed various changes to the sweeping legislation, with Republicans hoping to scrap it altogether.

The process was not without its obstacles for Democrats, some of whom came from within their own party. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent living with the Democrats in the Caucasus who has criticized the bill for not being broad enough, proposed changes aimed at removing elements of the original (and expensive) Build Back Better plan. restore, such as B. an extended child tax recognition. The measure failed like many others – with Sanders as the only vote.

Sinema questioned a 15 percent corporate minimum tax that would include private equity firms, and an amendment proposed by Senate Minority Leader John Thune (R-SD) was eventually passed to exempt private equity firms .

After a brief period of nervousness, an agreement was finally reached to fund this spin-off by expanding pass-through loss restrictions, which allow individuals to report business losses on their personal tax returns.

Still, Republicans found ways to fight back. An amendment to limit insulin funding to $35 for private insurance was defeated by Republicans, although some joined Democrats in voting for it. Instead, the $35 cap applies exclusively to Medicare beneficiaries.

Biden and the Democrats spent much of 2021 getting the multi-trillion-dollar “Build Back Better” package across the finish line. But Manchin was reluctant to spend such a sum in the face of rising inflation – and opposed many of the key climate measures – while Sinema scuttled proposals to raise the money to pay the bill by amending a tax law structured to it benefits Wall Street and big business.

As November’s midterms approached, most observers assumed that Democrats’ chances of using the reconciliation process to pass party-line legislation had essentially disappeared. But Manchin shocked the Capitol in late July when he and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced they had reached agreement on the broad outlines of the bill.

While much smaller than Build Back Better, the legislation includes proposals that most Democrats see as major achievements.

It is providing $300 billion for climate change action that aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, almost universally seen as a big win among Democrats. It includes one of the party’s longest-awaited reforms: giving Medicare the ability to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. It also introduces a minimum corporate tax of 15 percent that could bring in hundreds of billions of dollars to pay the programs in the bill and fill the deficit.

Republicans attempted to portray the bill as a tax and spending spree that could hamper the economy as it works to weather crushing inflation and two straight quarters of negative growth. Some early analysis has suggested that this could have a negligible impact on inflation — contradicting both the Democrat brand for the bill and some GOP criticism.

The GOP has also argued that the bill would break Biden’s promise not to levy taxes on people earning less than $400,000 a year. Early analysis on this particular point is incomplete, Bloomberg reported.

“Democrats want to pass huge, job-killing tax increases in the middle of a recession they’ve created,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued last week.

Predictably, Sinema became the last roadblock, spending a week publicly remaining silent on the bill while raising objections that later leaked to the press. Ultimately, the Arizona senator pulled out her concessions — including removing a tax loophole that would benefit big finance — and gave her approval of the bill.

Progressives desperate to use unified Democratic control of Washington to finally enact long-awaited priorities have been disappointed. Before the Senate pushed the bill forward, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called it an “extremely modest” bill.

“We are living through a moment of unprecedented crisis,” Sanders said. “This bill does practically nothing to appeal to any of them.”

Still, the Senate passage of the bill caps one of Biden’s best stretches of his nearly two-year tenure.

In the past 10 days, Biden has seen the House and Senate pass a high-tech manufacturing measure, Manchin reach an agreement with Schumer on the Reconciliation Act, Republicans campaigned to reject veterans legislation (only to then reverse course and pass the legislation goodbye when they realized their political mistake), gas prices hit a summer low, the US military took out a top al-Qaeda leader, voters are giving new hope to Democrats by supporting a ballot measure to ban abortion in Kansas an overwhelming and surprising majority, unemployment hits a 50-year low and the US report that more than 500,000 jobs were added in July – a strong indication that the economy is not in recession. Senate Democrats pass health, climate and tax inflation-reducing legislation


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