Senate passes Cut Inflation Act, Democrats’ climate, health care and tax bill, handing Biden victory

Washington— The Senate passed the Democrats’ sweep on Sunday economy package designed to tackle climate change, address health care costs and raise taxes on big business, marking a crucial achievement for President Biden and his party as they seek to maintain their hold on Congress in the election November mid-term.

The plan, called the Cut Inflation Act, cleared the upper house by a 51-50 vote along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the deciding vote in the equally divided Senate. Democrats used an expedited legislative process known as reconciliation to pass the measure in the face of unanimous opposition from Republicans.

‘It’s been a long, hard and winding road, but finally, finally, we’ve arrived,’ Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks to the Senate as members prepared to vote for passage final. “Today, after more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history. I am confident that the Cutting Inflation Act will remain one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century.”

The vote came after a marathon session that lasted all night and Sunday afternoon, with Democrats cheering as members voted for the final. In a process known as “vote-a-rama,” Republicans proposed a slew of amendments that Democrats managed to crush during nearly 16 hours of debate.

GOP senators successfully blocked a provision that would have capped the price of insulin $35 per month for people covered by private health insurance plans. Democrats needed 60 votes to waive the reconciliation rules and keep that part of the bill, but that failed 57 to 43, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in backing the measure.

House Democratic leaders announced last week that the lower house would return from its month-long recess on Friday to consider the legislation, which is expected to pass.

Mr Biden praised Senate Democrats for passing the plan and acknowledged it required “many compromises”. He urged the House to quickly approve the bill.

“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families on special interests, voting to cut the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance and daily energy costs and cut the deficit, while forcing the wealthiest corporations to finally pay their fair share,” the president said in a statement. “I ran for president promising to make government work again for working families, and this bill does that — period.”

The package is the culmination of months of negotiations over Mr Biden’s domestic policy agenda, which at times appeared to be on life support but was revived late last month with the surprise announcement of an agreement between Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 6: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks with
Senator Joe Manchin chats with aides on Capitol Hill in Washington on August 6, 2022.

Shuran Huang for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Although the legislation is much narrower than the sprawling $3.5 trillion proposal presented by Mr Biden last year, the tailored package had the support of Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat. whose support was crucial.

Still, Democrats are lauding the plan as their response to rising consumer prices and for its nearly $400 billion investment in fighting climate change, the largest ever. The package allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, a key Democrat priority that is expected to save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. It also extends enhanced health insurance subsidies that were due to expire at the end of the year and imposes a 15% minimum tax on most corporations that earn more than $1 billion each year.

The corporation tax provision emerged as a point of contention as senators neared the final vote on Sunday. Seven Democratic senators – Sinema, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly and Jacky Rosen – have joined Republicans in supporting an amendment proposed by GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota that exempts certain companies benefiting from the investment capital of the minimum corporate tax rate of 15%. This amendment was adopted 57 against 43.

To boost clean energy, the measure includes tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. It also offers rebates to consumers who buy energy-efficient appliances and provides $4 billion for drought relief.

Schumer hailed the bill as the “boldest climate package” in US history, and called it a “game changer” and a “turning point”.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

One element of the Democrats’ drug pricing plan — imposing penalties on drugmakers who raised prices beyond inflation on private insurers — was deleted after being reviewed by Senate Congresswoman Elizbeth MacDonough. His endorsement of the rest of the package, however, paved the way for the upper house to move forward with its consideration of the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation will reduce the deficit by $102 billion over the next 10 years. Republicans, however, argued that the plan would have little impact on inflation and instead raise taxes while leading to job losses.

In a interview with “Face the Nation” On Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, claimed the Democrats’ drug pricing plan would hurt seniors, while the tax component would raise taxes on Americans.

“Why would you raise the cost of government? We raise taxes,” he said.

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