February 7, 2023

WASHINGTON – Democrats got a largely positive ruling from a senator on the climate and health care package, and were due to plunge into an extended session of debate and vote on the amendment on Saturday, with the goal of overcoming the unified Republican opposition and passing the bill as soon as in End of this week.

Democratic leaders lined up to rally behind the bill, and signed up for Senator Kirsten Senema (D., Arizona) after making the changes she had demanded. The package raises nearly $750 billion in taxes and turns $430 billion into the largest program to tackle climate change in U.S. history and reduce certain health care costs, among other priorities. Senate Democrats now believe they are on track to pass the bill within days, paving the way for the House to pass the bill on Friday, when it is called from recess for a vote.

Senator Elizabeth McDonough on Saturday morning signed key elements of the Democrats’ package, including a measure that enables Medicare to negotiate drug prices and limits out-of-pocket drug costs to Medicare to $2,000 annually.

“Democrats have received very good news,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., New York) said in a statement about the parliamentarian’s work.

Mr Schumer said the parliamentarian had not accepted one part of the bill, relating to the requirement that drug companies pay rebates if they raise prices faster than inflation for Medicare and private insurance.

The rebate requirements will only apply to Medicare, not the commercial marketplace, a setback for Democrats’ efforts to reduce drug prices more broadly. He said the “inflation deduction is more limited in scope” under the decision. According to a person familiar with the matter, the discount requirements will only apply to Medicare, not the commercial market.

Separately, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Orr) said Parliament has approved clean energy tax provisions, including those that require workers to receive prevailing wages for certain clean energy projects.

To avoid the 60-vote threshold needed for most Senate legislation and pass the bill by a simple majority, Democrats use a process called reconciliation. Reconciliation requires the bill’s actions to be directly linked to the budget, and lawmakers rely on the parliamentarian to make that decision.

The first vote – a procedural measure for taking up the bill for a final vote – is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, followed by a period in which each party has up to 10 hours to debate. Next, the Senate takes a rapid series of unlimited amendment votes, in a process known as a rama vote that can stretch all night, and is often used to force political opponents into tough positions on the record.

In voting for the amendment, Republicans expected to pressure Democrats on policies including energy and immigration.

Republicans say the bill, known as the Reducing Inflation Act, would do little to combat inflation and contain tax increases on corporations that would trickle down to households. It would set a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%, but would protect the ability of at least some manufacturers to withstand accelerated depreciation, and include a 1% selective tax on stock buybacks. It also includes $45.6 billion for tax law enforcement, hoping to raise money from tax compliance.

The bill is the product of months of stop-and-go negotiations between Mr. Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin (D., Virginia), a centrist who has resisted much of his party’s broader agenda. If Democrats succeed, passing it would be a victory for their party just months before the midterm elections, which polls show will be a challenge to Democrats in large part due to public concern about inflation.

For the first time, the bill would enable Medicare to negotiate prices for a limited set of drugs selected from among those that account for the largest share of government expenditures. It would also cap out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000 per year, beginning in 2025, and beginning next year by issuing free vaccines to Medicare enrollees. It will extend for three years, until 2025, subsidies enacted last year as part of the US bailout to help people buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, at a cost of $64 billion.

On climate change, the bill is pumping money into wind and solar projects, along with batteries to store renewable energy, while also supporting technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers will benefit from subsidies for certain windows, heat pumps and other energy-efficient products, as well as an extended $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Homebuilders, homeowners and small businesses can take advantage of the new capital flowing into so-called green banks, which will receive $20 billion to provide low-cost financing for energy-efficient products such as heat pumps, windows, solar panels, insulation and electricity. Vehicle charging stations.

The most important climate provisions are tax credits that would direct billions of dollars into wind, solar and battery projects that put clean energy on the grid, according to Rhodium Group, an independent research firm. The group estimated that the bill would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 31% to 44% below 2005 levels in 2030, compared to 24% to 35% under the current policy.

write to Siobhan Hughes at [email protected]

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