As Senate prepares to vote, lawmakers weaken Democrats’ drug plan in Inflation Reduction Act

On Saturday, the Senate member struck down Democrats’ plans to rein in drug prices, but as Democratic leaders prepare for their first vote on a package that includes many of President Joe Biden’s top domestic targets The rest is largely intact.

The chamber’s nonpartisan rules arbitrator, Elizabeth MacDonald, said lawmakers must remove language imposing heavy penalties on drugmakers that raise prices on top of inflation in the private insurance market. These are the Act’s primary pricing protections for the roughly 180 million people whose health insurance comes from private insurance, whether through work or by buying it themselves.

Other key provisions remain unchanged, including giving Medicare the power to negotiate what it pays for the drugs it receives for the 64 million seniors, a longstanding Democratic goal. Penalties for manufacturers to exceed inflation will apply to drugs sold to Medicare, with Medicare beneficiaries capped at $2,000 in annual out-of-pocket costs for the drug and free vaccines.

Her ruling comes as Democrats plan to start a Senate vote on Saturday on their broad package to address climate change, energy, health care costs, taxes and even deficit reduction. Party leaders say they believe they have the unity needed to push the legislation through a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris expected to vote to break ties as all Republicans are expected to oppose the bill.

“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of D.N.Y. said of the bill, which is being used by both parties in election-year campaigns. Act to blame the worst inflation period in four years. decades.

“At a time of seemingly insurmountable impasse, the Inflation Reduction Act will show the American people that Congress is still capable of taking significant steps to address major challenges when needed,” Schumer said. “We will show the American people that yes , we have the ability to take control of pharmaceutical companies and make our tax code fairer through a historic climate package.”

In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Democrats “misread the anger of the American people as the mandate for another reckless taxation and spending binge.” Democrats, he said, “have robbed by inflation. They robbed the American family once, and now their solution is to rob the American family again.”

Removing the penalties for drugmakers reduces the incentive for drug companies to limit fees, thereby increasing costs for patients.

Analysts say removing the language would reduce savings by $288 billion over 10 years, while Democrats’ overall anti-drug measures are projected to generate $288 billion in savings.

Schumer said McDonough’s decision on the price cap on private insurance was “an unfortunate ruling.” But he said the surviving drug pricing language represented a “major victory for the American people” and that the entire bill “remains largely unchanged.”

The ruling comes as Democrats revive a major part of Biden’s agenda that appears to be dead over a 10-day period. In a quick deal with the Democrats’ two most unpredictable senators — first conservative Joe Manchin of West Virginia and then centrist Kirsten Sinema of Arizona — Schumer Piecing together a broad package, although a small fraction of Manchin’s derailment of an earlier, larger version, will give the party a success in the context of this fall’s congressional elections.

The lawmaker also signed a charge on excess emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributor, from oil and gas drilling. She also provides environmental grants and other initiatives to reduce carbon emissions to minority communities, said Thomas Carper, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

She approved a rule requiring union-scale wages to be paid if energy-efficiency projects qualify for a tax credit, and another that would limit electric vehicle tax credits to those cars and trucks assembled in the United States.

The overall measure faces unanimous opposition from Republicans. But assuming Democrats oppose the unbroken “Vote Rama” amendments — many of which Republicans have designed to undermine the measure — they should be able to push the measure through the Senate.

The House of Representatives will return to vote on the bill on Friday.

“What a ballot puller is going to look like. It’s like hell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Friday of the upcoming GOP amendment. In supporting the Democrats’ bill, Manchin and Sinema “are authorizing legislation that will make life harder for ordinary people,” enforce higher energy costs through tax increases and make it harder for companies to hire workers.

The bill provides spending and tax incentives for switching to cleaner fuels and supporting coal to reduce carbon emissions. Expiring subsidies to help millions pay private insurance premiums will be extended for three years, along with $4 billion to help Western countries fight drought.

Some corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue but paying far less than the current corporate tax of 21 percent will be subject to a new minimum tax of 15 percent. Companies that buy back their own stock will also be hit with a 1% tax after Sinema declined to support higher taxes on private equity firm executives and hedge fund managers. The IRS’s budget will be boosted to strengthen its taxes.

While the final cost of the bill is still being determined, overall it would cost more than $300 billion over 10 years to slow climate change, which analysts say would be the country’s largest investment in the effort, plus There are billions of dollars in healthcare. It will raise more than $700 billion in taxes and government drug cost savings, leaving about $300 billion to cut the deficit — a modest cut to a projected 10-year, trillion-dollar shortfall.

Democrats are using a special process to let them pass the measure without having to reach the 60-vote majority that legislation usually requires in the Senate.

It’s the job of lawmakers to decide whether parts of the legislation must be struck down for violating those rules, including a requirement that provisions are primarily designed to affect the federal budget, not implement new policies.

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