WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday that Senate Democrats plan to hold a procedural vote Saturday on their main domestic policy bill, the Inflation Reduction Act.
If all 50 Senate Democrats vote for the measure, the bill could receive a final vote as early as next week.
The legislation would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices with the drug industry, a very popular policy change Democrats have been seeking for years. The bill would invest more than $300 billion in green energy grants and tax incentives, and ultimately save the government hundreds of billions of dollars by funding stricter IRS enforcement and a new minimum tax on the most profitable companies.
Its passage would end an unusually productive session of Congress and give President Joe Biden a major victory ahead of November’s midterm elections.
“We have a lot of stuff here,” Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Oregon) told The Huffington Post on Thursday.
But Democrats have yet to gain the support of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is reported to be push for changeincluding eliminating a provision that would tighten tax loopholes associated with hedge fund managers and private equity executives.
Sinema declined to be interviewed by reporters on Thursday. She was spotted talking deeply in the Senate with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who wrote the bill largely in secret negotiations with Schumer.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also said he was disappointed by the prescription drug rule, but did not say he would vote against it. “I would like to see it improve,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Another hurdle is the Senate — a behind-the-scenes Senate official who decides whether the bill’s various provisions are allowed under the Senate’s arcane “budget reconciliation” process. The settlement allows Democrats to pass their bill with a simple majority, meaning they don’t need a Republican vote if all 50 Democrats agree.
Policies deemed ‘irrelevant’ by MPs reconciliation rules must be thrown away. The lawmaker forced Democrats to forego raising the federal minimum wage as part of last year’s settlement bill.
Republican senators have pitched lawmakers against nearly every provision in the bill in an effort to stifle or substantially weaken its structure. Democrats are still waiting to hear the fate of their prescription drug proposals and several revenue provisions.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Wyden said he was optimistic Democrats would emerge from a settlement “challenge” with most of the bill intact. He praised Elizabeth McDonald, who has been MP since 2012, as a “straight shooter”.
Democrats initially hoped to pass a broader social policy bill dubbed “Building Back Better,” but failed to win Manchin’s approval last year on issues such as paid leave and monthly child allowances. Negotiations between Manchin and Schumer, however, continued, although it seemed unlikely Democrats would unite around a more moderate bill.
The bill’s new name is a nod to Manchin’s ongoing concerns about rising prices. Some prominent economists said the measure would slow inflation.This The Congressional Budget Office said ThursdayHowever, the legislation has had a “minimal” impact on inflation this year, but could be lower next year.
After an initial vote on the bill on Saturday, 20 hours of debate will follow, followed by a marathon session known as a “vote-a-rama” where senators will vote on an unlimited number of amendments . This process usually lasts up to 20 hours.
Republicans hope to persuade Sinema and other moderates to join them in voting for some of their non-binding amendments aimed at uncovering divisions among Democrats with an eye toward the midterm elections.
Schumer appeared to allow the ballot plan to fail on Thursday, saying only, “We expect to have a vote on the motion to advance the settlement legislation on Saturday afternoon.”