Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tore up the Inflation Cut Act on Saturday for doing little to fight inflation and not enough to help Americans struggling to pay for health care, childcare and housing.
“According to [Congressional Budget Office] and other business organizations that have studied this bill, it will have minimal impact on inflation,” Sanders said in the Senate to open debate on the 755-page bill, which will raise taxes on businesses, fight climate change and reduce certain requirements. drug costs.
The line of criticism echoed what Senate Republicans have been saying for days pointing out an analysis by Penn Wharton the conclusion of the bill will have a negligible impact on inflation.
Sanders argued that the Democratic bill fell far short of what was needed as Americans grow increasingly disillusioned with government and a tiny fraction of wealthy individuals and families own a wildly disproportionate share. of the country’s wealth.
He pointed to the lower standard of living that many young people expect compared to their parents’ generation, the staggering cost of housing for those new to the world of work, and stagnating wages.
“This legislation does not meet any of their needs,” Sanders said. “This legislation ignores the fact that we have more income and wealth inequality today than at any time in the past hundred years.”
He complained that the bill does not address the fact that big business CEOs earn 350 times more than their employees, or do more to improve a health care system.
“This bill does nothing to address the systemic dysfunction of America’s health care system,” he charged.
He also noted that the bill “as currently drafted does nothing” to address the nation’s child poverty rate, a pointed reference to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (DW.Va.) opposition to the inclusion of an extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit – which expired at the end of last year – in the bill.
He said the bill also fails to address the country’s affordable housing crisis.
“Yeah, you guessed it. This bill does nothing to address the serious housing crisis we face or to build a single unit of safe and affordable housing. Just another issue that we put aside,” he grumbled.
But Sanders’ biggest complaint is that the legislation doesn’t give enough power to Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.
He said the “good news” is that the bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, but the “bad news” is that the provision does not go into effect for four years, at which time only 10 drugs will be covered.
“This provision will have no impact on prices for Americans not Medicare. Those prices will continue to rise out of control,” he said.
Sanders announced he would propose an amendment that would require Medicare to pay no more for prescription drugs than the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He said the proposal would save Medicare $900 billion over the next decade.
In a floor speech Wednesday, he said he would use the money to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and expand Medicare benefits to cover vision, hearing and medical care. dental.
Sanders told reporters earlier Saturday that he plans to propose three more amendments to the bill regarding prescription drugs and health insurance.
One amendment would expand Medicare to provide dental, vision and hearing benefits, another would provide $30 billion to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to fight climate change, and a fourth would expand the child tax credit by $300 a month. for the next five years.
His arguments, however, fall largely flat with Democratic senators who say they will not vote for any amendments that could jeopardize the support of Manchin and his centrist colleague, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).
A Democratic senator said Schumer urged his colleagues not to propose amendments to the bill that could upset the carefully crafted compromise he reached with Manchin and Sinema after weeks of negotiations.
A Democratic aide said Sanders’ insistence on voting on his amendments would delay the bill’s final passage.
But Schumer has limited influence over Sanders, who as budget committee chairman has the formal role of managing the floor debate on the bill, which is subject to special budget reconciliation rules to circumvent a GOP filibuster.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who played a major role in crafting the prescription drug compromise with Sinema, pushed back against Sanders’ criticism.
He hailed it as a major victory as it would set an important precedent by empowering the government to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry.
“I think there’s a reason the big PhRMA is fighting so hard against this. They know that once you make negotiation part of the law, there’s no turning back. C This is what this is about,” he said, referring to the pharmaceutical industry trade association. “This is a seismic shift between the government and this lobby.”