December 3, 2022

A divided Senate took a decisive step Saturday toward approving Democrats’ plan to tackle climate change, cut health care costs and raise taxes for big business, with a test vote that paved the way for the enactment of a large part of President Biden’s domestic plan. Agenda in the coming days.

The measure advanced on a party line by 51 votes to 50, with all Republicans opposed and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

The action suggested that Democrats, after more than a year of internal wrangling and painstaking negotiations, finally coalesced behind legislation that would save hundreds of billions of dollars for climate and energy programs, extend Affordable Care Act subsidies, and create a new federal initiative to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, especially for seniors from Americans.

Many of The 755-page legislation They will be paid for through the tax increases, which Democrats said are aimed at making the tax code more equitable.

The vote put the bill on track for passage in the Senate on Sunday, and the House is expected to give its approval by the end of the week. That would provide a major boost for Biden at a time when his popularity is waning, and would give Democrats a victory in November’s midterm elections with their congressional majority at stake.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said in a Senate floor report on Saturday. “This is a huge victory for the American people and a sad commentary for the Republican Party as they actively fight cost-cutting provisions for the American family.”

The hard-earned agreement, which includes the largest investment in history to counter global warming, came after a series of intense negotiations with two key Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kirsten Senema of Arizona.

Just weeks ago, Manchin, a conservative Democrat from a red state, said he couldn’t agree to including climate, energy and tax measures in this summer’s domestic policy plan because of his concerns that doing so would exacerbate inflation. But late last month he and Schumer surprised lawmakers in both parties with the news that they had quietly returned to the negotiating table and reached a deal that included those proposals.

On Thursday, Ms Sinema announced that she, too, would go ahead with extracting the concessions, including scrapping a provision that would have narrowed the tax credit that would allow private equity executives and hedge fund managers to pay significantly less tax on some income than other taxpayers. an act.

Democrats have been speeding the bill through Congress under the murky budget process known as Reconciliation, which protects some tax and spending measures from disruption but also strictly limits what can be included.

Republicans still unanimously opposed the measure and worked hard to block its course, angry at the re-emergence of a plan they thought was dead. Fainted by the agreement between Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin, they are quick to attack the bill as a big spending and tax hike that would exacerbate inflation and damage the economy at an unsettled moment.

“Democrats misread the American people’s anger as authorizing yet another – another – reckless – tax and spending spree,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

He condemned the “tidal wave of Washington’s intervention” that he said would result from the prescription drug plan, which he said would take “a buzz in the research and development behind new, life-saving medical treatments and therapies.”

But Democrats have renamed the transformative cradle-to-grave social safety net and climate plan they once called “Building Back Better” into the Inflation Reduction Act. By operating with a slim majority in the Senate that gave their more conservative members a powerful sway over the measure, the Democrats got rid of hundreds of billions of dollars in proposed spending on domestic programs, as well as many of the tax increases they paid for it. .

External estimates indicated that the measure would not force a significant increase in federal spending or impose large tax increases outside large companies, and was expected to reduce the federal budget deficit by the end of the decade.

That didn’t stop Republicans from saying that it would be disastrous for the economy and Americans. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, called it “the 2022 Mansion Schumer tax increase.”

Republicans have spent most of the past week trying to devise ways to slow or block the legislation by saying it violates the Reconciliation rules. (However, they have indicated privately that they will refrain from forcing Senate clerks to read the bill out loud, after a similar gambit last year sparked a protest.)

Senator Elizabeth McDonough and her staff worked in the early hours of Saturday morning to determine whether components of the bill would violate those rules, which require each provision to have a direct impact on federal spending or revenue. Early Saturday, she asked Democrats to scale back a proposal aimed at preventing an increase in drug prices from outpacing inflation, saying the proposed rebate could only apply to drugs that Medicare buys, not private insurers.

But top Democrats said most legislation remained untouched after Ms McDonough’s review, including a plan to allow Medicare to directly negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time, and restrictions on new tax credits for electric vehicles and fees designed to cut excessive amounts. Emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas commonly emitted from oil and gas leaks.

In a last-ditch effort to defeat the measure, Republicans were set early Saturday night to begin imposing a series of swift votes on toxic political amendments — an hours-long ritual known as voting in the rama that reconciliation proceedings should continue. to be approved. In the evenly divided Senate, the 50 members of the Democratic caucus will have to remain united to fend off any changes proposed by Republicans and win final passage.

“How would the vote in the Rama be? It would be like hell,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South of South Carolina. “They deserve it,” he said of the Democrats.

Democrats are also still able to change the bill. They are expected to essentially dare Republicans to strip away a proposal to reduce the cost of insulin for all patients, a common measure that violates budget rules because it would not directly affect federal spending.

And at least one member of the Democratic caucus, Vermont-independent Senator Bernie Sanders and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said he plans to force a vote on the amendments to improve the legislation.

“This is a totally inappropriate bill, but it does begin, in a sense, to address the existential threat facing the planet,” Sanders said in an interview Friday. “I am disappointed.”

However, most Democrats have been trying to rally colleagues to stay united against any amendments — including those that their fellow caucus members could introduce — to maintain a precise consensus on the bill and make sure it can become law.

“What matters to me is that we got 50 votes, well, in the end, which means we have to keep this deal together,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, told reporters. “What matters is that we made a deal, and we need to keep this deal as it is.”

Lisa FriedmanAnd the Stephanie Lay And the Sheryl Jay Stolberg Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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