April 1, 2023

Divided Senate votes to open debate Saturday Democrats’ Election Year Economic Billpropelling President Joe Biden’s broad collection on climate, energy, health and taxation to pass initial tests as it begins to pass Congress.

In a preview of expected votes on a slew of amendments, united Democrats passed the tie House by a vote of 51 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie and defeating the unanimous Republican opposition. The plan, a scaled-down version of an earlier multi-trillion-dollar measure that Democrats failed to advance, has become a partisan battleground over inflation, gas prices and other issues that polls show are driving voters.

Senate opens debate on Inflation Reduction Act with 51-50 vote
Vice President Kamala Harris leaves the Senate after passing the Reducing Inflation Act by a 50-50 vote on August 6, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Anna Rossladen/Getty Images

The House, with a narrow Democratic majority, is likely to give final approval next Friday when lawmakers plan to return to Washington.

voting is in senator thumbs up The 755-page bill as amended by most Democrats. But Elizabeth MacDonald, the chamber’s nonpartisan rules arbiter, said Democrats had to give up an important part of their plan to curb drug prices.

McDonough said Democrats violated Senate budget rules by imposing heavy fines on drugmakers who push prices above 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 drug provisions remain unchanged, including giving Medicare the power to negotiate what it pays for the drugs it receives for 64 million seniors, a longstanding Democratic desire. 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.

“The time has come for a big, bold package for the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “This historic bill will lower inflation and lower costs. , to tackle climate change. Now is the time to move this country forward.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Democrats “misread the anger of the American people as the mandate for yet another reckless taxation and spending binge.” Democrats “have passed the currency,” he said. Inflation robbed American families once, and now their solution is to rob American families again.”

Saturday’s vote capped an astonishing 10 days as Democrats restarted a major part of Biden’s agenda that appeared to be dead. 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 Piece together a package that will see the party achieve in the context of this fall’s congressional elections.

The White House statement said the legislation “will help address today’s most pressing economic challenges, make our economy stronger for decades to come, and make America the world leader in clean energy.”

Assuming Democrats oppose uninterrupted “balloting” amendments — many of which Republicans have designed to undermine the measure — they should be able to push the measure through the Senate.

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said of the upcoming GOP amendment: “What will a vote look like? It’s like hell.” In the process of the bill, Manchin and Sinema “are authorizing legislation that will make life more difficult for ordinary people,” enforce higher energy costs by increasing taxes and make it harder for companies to hire workers.

The bill provides spending and tax incentives favored by progressives for buying electric vehicles and making buildings more energy efficient. But in a nod to Manchin, the state is a leading producer of fossil fuels, has money to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, and is asking the government to open up more federal lands and waters for oil drilling.

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. A new rule will cap insulin, an expensive diabetes drug, of $35 a month for Medicare and privately insured patients starting next year. During the debate, it seems likely that language will be weakened or deleted.

Reflecting Democrats’ calls for tax fairness, a new minimum tax of 15% will be imposed on some companies that make more than $1 billion in annual revenue but pay far less than the current 21% corporate tax. Companies repurchasing their own shares will be subject to a 1% transaction 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 nearly $400 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, reducing the deficit by about $300 billion over the next decade — a blip compared to the projected $16 trillion budget shortfall for that period.

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.

Lawmakers decide whether parts of the legislation must be revoked for violating the rules, which include a requirement that provisions primarily aim to affect the federal budget rather than implement new policies.

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