Early Sunday morning, Senate Democrats passed landmark legislation to tackle climate change and prescription drug prices, sending it to the House of Representatives.
The legislation, known as the Reducing Inflation Act of 2022, would be the U.S. government’s biggest step yet to reduce domestic emissions at a time when global goals are faltering. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, limit the cost of insulin for Medicare recipients and continue to subsidize Obamacare.
The vote followed a marathon series of votes dubbed the “Vote Rama,” which began Saturday night and continued through Sunday afternoon. All 50 voted for the legislation along with Vice President Kamala Harris, while all Republicans voted for the legislation.
“It’s an example of a leader leading with the understanding that there is a solution at hand, if people have the will and the courage to really step up and solve the problem,” Ms Harris told independent.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass if only nine of the 220 Democrats vote against it. The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the bill.
The legislation comes after Democrats spent more than a year trying to pass domestic legislation signed by President Joe Biden. Mr. Biden initially hoped to pass a massive social spending bill that would include expanded spending on child tax credits; home care for people with disabilities; expanded hearing for Medicare recipients; immigration policy reform; and stronger efforts Fight climate change and promote clean energy. They hope to pass it along with his bipartisan infrastructure bill.
But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, announced his opposition to the legislation in December, calling it “Building Back Better.” That has led to on-and-off talks between Mr. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Late last month, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin announced a deal called the Reducing Inflation Act in response to Mr. Manchin’s concerns about rising prices.
It would also increase the credibility of the United States on the international stage, as Mr Biden plans to travel to Egypt for COP27, where he will ask other major emitters in China, Europe and beyond to drastically reduce their own fossil fuel use.
The bill proposes $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments, including billions in tax incentives to expand renewable energy, battery storage and nuclear power over the next 10 years.
The legislation also provides tax credits to make it easier to buy electric vehicles, help farmers reduce agricultural emissions, and provide financial support to minority and low-income communities hardest hit by climate and environmental pollution.
Several new analyses of the IRA by independent policy groups have found that it will cut emissions by about 40 percent by the end of the century (down from 2005 levels). It puts the United States far from President Joe Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030.
Some climate activists and environmental groups oppose aspects of the bill that are necessary for Mr. Manchin, who has made a fortune from his state’s coal industry, to join, such as requiring the government to auction leases for oil and gas drilling. Public lands and waters, including the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.
Coal and gas plants using carbon capture technology will also receive larger tax credits. Mr. Manchin was given a separate commitment to speed up approvals for the Valley Natural Gas Pipeline in West Virginia.
Meanwhile, many Democratic senators said they would not vote on any amendments to the legislation, acknowledging that it was the only chance for any major climate legislation to pass.
Many Democrats are also excited about the fact that Medicare is allowed to negotiate drug prices. But guidance issued by Senator Elizabeth McDonald weakened part of legislation that would force drug companies to rebate Medicare if they raise drug prices above inflation.
The lawmaker delivered another blow to Democrats by declaring that a plan to cap insulin at $35 for privately insured patients would not comply with budget adjustment rules. That led Republicans to raise a procedural issue to remove it from the bill.
Democrats need 60 votes to keep the price of insulin at $35 for privately insured patients in legislation, but only seven Republicans voted for it.
Likewise, Republican Senate Minority Whip John Thune sought to coax conservative Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona over a Democratic proposal to impose a corporate minimum tax on certain private equity-linked companies. a means. However, the amendment would put House legislation in jeopardy as it continues to limit state and local tax deductions enacted during Trump’s tax cuts, opposed by many Democrats in New York, New Jersey and California.
Six Democrats joined Ms. Sinema, including Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia; Jackie Rosen and Katherine Cortez Masto of Nevada; Mark Kelly of Arizona; and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner proposed an alternative amendment, which passed with all Democrats.
Despite the setback, Democrats passed the legislation early Sunday night.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which elects Democrats and protects incumbents, said the prescription drug side will help Democrats campaign.
“If you look at the polls it’s like the number one question for most people in this country right now,” he told independent Debate on the bill at the start of the vote.
Democrats also received a life raft when Republicans did not raise procedural issues to remove a portion of the legislation that would allow a cap on insulin costs for non-Medicare patients.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who has criticized the bill for being insufficient, has proposed an amendment that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for all drugs, rather than initially negotiating just 10 drugs by 2024. 20 medicines to be negotiated in 2029.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary, at least within the party, for this Congress to say that we understand the crisis facing working families, we’re going to stand with them, and we’re going to vote for some serious amendments to improve the bill,” he said in a statement last week. told reporters in the afternoon.
But Mr. Sanders’ amendments to drug prices, as well as amendments to include dental, hearing and vision care under Medicare coverage, both failed as a majority of Democrats opposed the legislation.
Despite internal dissent, many Democrats welcomed the passage of the bill. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said it showed Democrats can deal with special interest groups.
“I mean, this is the first time you think about it, we took over, we took over pharma that never failed. We took on oil companies that never lost, we took on Wall Street , we’ve won all three, how important that is,” he said.