The Senate is expected to hold a key vote on Saturday to push through Democrats’ sweeping health care and climate bills — which could pass the Senate as early as this weekend.
The bill, called the Reducing Inflation Act, would represent the largest climate investment in U.S. history and extend the expiration of health care subsidies by giving Medicare the power to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs for the first time. to three years. The legislation will impose new taxes to pay for it.
The package, the product of tough negotiations, will give Democrats a chance to achieve key policy goals ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Senate Democrats are using a special process to pass the package without a Republican vote.
Once the legislation has passed the Senate, it needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it into law.
The Senate is expected to hold its first procedural vote on the bill sometime on Saturday. The motion requires a simple majority to proceed.
Democrats control the slimmest majority, with just 50 seats in the Senate, but are expected to unite to advance the bill in an initial procedural vote.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema provided key support Thursday night after party leaders agreed to change the new tax proposal, signaling she would “move forward” on a comprehensive economic package.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also played a key role in crafting the legislation — which moved forward only after Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal in late July , a major breakthrough for Democrats after earlier talks stalled out.
Senate Democrats only need a simple majority to finally pass the bill because they are using a process called reconciliation, which allows them to avoid Republican obstruction and the corresponding 60-vote threshold.
However, in order for the bill to pass the reconciliation process, the package must adhere to a strict set of budgetary rules. Senate lawmakers must decide whether provisions in the bill meet the rules that allow Democrats to use a filibuster-proof budget process to pass legislation along partisan lines. Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon announced earlier Saturday that the clean energy tax portion of the bill “complies with Senate rules and important provisions that ensure our clean energy future is established in the United States has been approved by members of Congress.” Senate Democrats are still awaiting key rulings by lawmakers on Medicare and prescription drug prices.
Schumer has yet to decide exactly when he plans to start the debate this weekend, according to senior Democratic aides. The timing of that vote is key, as it will kick off the process and will determine when the bill will finally receive a final vote. If Schumer waits to hold the first vote for a public debate, it could delay the rest of the vote on the bill until late Saturday or even all day Sunday.
The reason Democratic leaders haven’t decided is because they are awaiting a ruling from members of Congress. The aide said that while they do not need her to rule before the first procedural vote, Democrats aim to make any changes she asks for before the process begins. As a result, the timing of voting on the amendment and eventual passage of the bill has been very fluid.
If the first procedural vote on the bill is supported by all 50 members of the Democratic caucus (expected to be), up to 20 hours of debate will be split evenly between the two parties, although some of that time could be rolled back to expedite the process.
After debate time, there will be a process colloquially known on Capitol Hill as a “vote-a-rama” — a series of marathon amendment votes, with no time limit, that must take place before a final vote.
Republicans will be able to use the vote to get Democrats on the spot and force them to vote hard politically. This process usually lasts overnight and into the early hours of the next day. The exact time for voting is not known, but it could begin as early as Saturday night. If that happens, the final vote could take place in the early hours of Sunday.
The House is preparing to return to consider the legislation on Friday, Aug. 12, according to the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
For a party that failed to pass major climate legislation more than a decade ago, the settlement bill represents a major victory for Democrats for a long time.
The nearly $370 billion clean energy and climate package is the largest climate investment in U.S. history and the biggest victory for the environmental movement since the landmark Clean Air Act. It’s also coming at a pivotal moment; this summer saw severe heatwaves and deadly floods across the country, both of which scientists say are linked to a warming planet.
Analysis by Schumer’s office, along with multiple independent analyses, suggests the measures could reduce U.S. carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent by 2030. A Biden administration will need strong climate regulations and state action to meet Biden’s 50 percent emissions reduction goal by 2030.
The bill also contains a number of tax incentives aimed at lowering the cost of electricity through more renewable energy sources and spurring more U.S. consumers to switch to electricity to power their homes and vehicles.
Lawmakers say the bill represents a huge victory and just the beginning of what is needed to tackle the climate crisis.
“It’s not about the laws of politics, it’s about the laws of physics,” Sen. Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, told CNN. “We all know that we have to do what the science tells us to do.”
The bill would authorize Medicare to negotiate prices for certain expensive drugs administered at a doctor’s office or purchased at a pharmacy. The HHS secretary will negotiate prices for 10 drugs in 2026 and 15 more in 2027 and 2028. By 2029 and beyond, this number will increase to 20 species per year.
The controversial provision is far more limited than what House Democratic leaders have supported in the past. But it would open the door to the party’s long-term goal of allowing Medicare to use its leverage to lower drug costs.
Democrats also plan to extend the enhanced Obamacare federal premium subsidy through 2025, a year later than lawmakers recently discussed. That way they don’t expire after the 2024 presidential election.
To boost revenue, the bill would impose a minimum tax of 15% on income reported by large corporations to shareholders, known as book income, instead of the IRS. The measure, which would raise $258 billion over a decade, applies to companies with more than $1 billion in profits.
Concerned about how the rule would affect certain businesses, particularly manufacturers, Sinema suggested she change the Democrats’ plan to reduce how companies deduct depreciated assets from taxes. Details remain unclear.
However, Sinema vetoed her party’s efforts to tighten the carried interest loophole, which would allow investment managers to treat much of their compensation as capital gains and pay a 20 percent long-term capital gains tax, rather than a whopping 37 percent income tax rate.
The provision would extend the period for which interest on an investment manager’s profits must be held from three years to five years to take advantage of the lower tax rate. Fixing the loophole that will raise $14 billion over a decade has been a longstanding goal of congressional Democrats.
Instead, a 1% sales tax on corporate stock buybacks raised another $74 billion, according to Democratic aides.