US Senate approves bill to fight climate change and cut drug costs in favor of Biden

WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Sunday passed a sweeping $430 billion bill to tackle climate change, cut drug prices and raise some corporate taxes, a major victory for President Joe Biden whom Democrats hope to bolster their chances of retaining. control of Congress in this year’s elections.

After a marathon 27-hour weekend debate session and Republican efforts to derail the package, the Senate approved legislation known as the Cut Inflation Act by a 51-50 vote. Vice President Kamala Harris voted for the tiebreaker.

The action sends the measure to the House of Representatives for a vote expected on Friday which could send it, in turn, to the White House for Biden’s signature. In a statement, Biden urged the House to act as soon as possible and said he looked forward to signing the bill into law.

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‘The Senate is making history,’ Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after throwing his fists in the air as Democrats cheered and their staffers responded to the vote with a standing ovation.

“To those Americans who have lost faith that Congress can do great things, this bill is for you,” he said. “This bill will change America for decades.”

Schumer said the legislation contains “the boldest clean energy package in American history” to tackle climate change while lowering consumption costs for energy and certain drugs.

Democrats drew sharp attacks from Republicans over the $430 billion in new spending and about $740 billion in new revenue. Read more

Still, Democrats hope its passage, ahead of the August recess, will help the party’s House and Senate candidates in the Nov. 8 midterm elections at a time when Biden is suffering from an approval rating. anemic public sector in a context of high inflation.

The legislation aims to reduce carbon emissions and switch consumers to green energy, while reducing prescription drug costs for the elderly and strengthening tax enforcement for corporations and the wealthy.

Because the measure is cost-effective and reduces the federal deficit over time, Democrats say it will help bring down inflation, an economic liability that has also weighed on their hopes of retaining legislative control as Congress approaches. the 2024 presidential election.

Republicans, arguing the bill won’t fix inflation, denounced the measure as a job-destroying left-wing spending wish list that could undermine growth when the economy risks sliding into a recession.

Democrats approved the bill using a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation, which allows budget legislation to bypass the 100-seat chamber’s 60-vote threshold for most bills and move to a simple majority. .

After several hours of debate, the Senate launched a quick “vote-a-rama” on Saturday evening on the Democratic and Republican amendments that lasted until Sunday afternoon.

Democrats pushed back more than 30 Republican amendments, points of order and motions, all intended to sabotage the legislation. Any changes to the content of the bill brought about by an amendment could have unraveled the coalition of 50 Democratic senators needed to keep the legislation on track.

NO CAP ON INSULIN COSTS

But they were unable to muster the votes needed to keep a provision to cap soaring insulin costs at $35 a month in the private health insurance market, which broke the rules. of reconciliation. Democrats said the legislation would still cap insulin costs for people on Medicare.

In a foreshadowing of the upcoming fall election campaign, Republicans have used their amendment defeats to attack vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election in November.

“Democrats are voting again to allow the chaos on the southern border to continue,” Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that nominated Democratic Senators Mark Kelly of Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. All four face close contests for re-election.

The bill took more than 18 months to craft as Biden’s sweeping initial plan, Build Back Better, was scaled back in the face of opposition from Republicans and key lawmakers in his own party.

“It took a lot of compromises. Doing big things almost always does,” Biden said in a statement.

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Reporting by Richard Cowan, Rose Horowitch, David Morgan and Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone, Mary Milliken, Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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