February 6, 2023

Senate Democrats passed their signature legislation on climate change and drug prices early Sunday morning, sending the legislation to the House of Representatives.

The legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, would be the largest step the US government has taken to cut domestic emissions at a time when global targets are faltering. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, determine the cost of insulin for Medicare recipients and continue subsidies for Obamacare.

The vote followed a long series of votes known as the “Rama vote” that began late Saturday evening and continued on Sunday afternoon. All 50 people voted in favor of the legislation along with Vice President Kamala Harris, while all Republicans voted in favor of the legislation.

Ms Harris said: “This is an example of leaders leading, realizing that there are solutions at hand, if people have the desire and courage to actually step up to solve the problem.” independent.

The legislation is now heading to the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass if only 9 of the 220 Democrats oppose it. The White House has said President Joe Biden will sign the bill.

The legislation comes after Democrats spent more than a year trying to pass domestic legislation signed by President Joe Biden. Biden initially hoped to pass a massive social spending bill that would include spending on the expanded children’s tax credit. home care for people with disabilities; Expand hearing coverage for Medicare recipients; immigration reform; and stronger efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy. They hoped it would pass along with a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democratic senator from West Virginia, announced in December his opposition legislation known as Build Back Better. This led to on-and-off negotiations between Mr. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Late last month, Schumer and Manchin announced a deal known as the Inflation Cuts Act, a reference to Manchin’s concern about rising prices.

It will also boost America’s credibility on the international stage as Biden plans to fly to Egypt for COP27, where he will ask other major emitters in China, Europe and beyond to sharply cut fossil fuel use.

The bill proposes $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments, including billions of dollars in tax incentives to expand renewable energy, battery storage, and nuclear power over the next 10 years.

The legislation also provides tax credits to facilitate the purchase of electric vehicles, help farmers reduce agricultural emissions, and fund improvements in minority and low-income communities hardest hit by climate and environmental pollution.

Several new analyzes of the IRA, from independent policy groups, have found that it will cut emissions by about 40 percent (below 2005 levels) by the end of the decade. It puts the US within walking distance of President Joe Biden’s pledge to halve US emissions by 2030.

Some climate activists and environmental groups have objected to aspects of the bill that were necessary to get Mr. Manchin, who has amassed a fortune from his state’s coal industry, on board, such as requiring the government to auction off leases for oil and gas exploration. Public lands and waters, including in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

Coal and gas plants that use carbon capture technology will also receive expanded tax credits. Manchin secured a separate promise that permitting progress would be accelerated with the Mountain Valley gas pipeline in West Virginia.

At the same time, several Democratic senators said they would not vote on any amendments to the legislation recognizing it as the only chance to pass any major climate legislation.

Several Democrats have also expressed enthusiasm about the fact that it will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. But Senator Elizabeth McDonough issued directives that weakened a piece of legislation that would force drug companies to deduct Medicare if they raise drug prices above inflation.

The parliamentarian dealt another blow to Democrats when she announced that the plan to limit insulin for private insurance patients to $35 did not follow budget adjustment rules. This led Republicans to raise a point of order to strip it from the bill.

Democrats needed to gain 60 votes to keep the price of insulin at $35 for private insurance patients in the legislation, but only seven Republicans voted to keep it.

Likewise, the Senate minority Republican Party, Webb John Thune, attempted to include a cut in the Democrats’ proposed minimum corporate tax for certain private equity firms, as a way to persuade conservative Democratic Senator Kirsten Senema of Arizona. However, the amendment would have jeopardized the legislation in the House as it continued to place a cap on state and local tax cuts put in place during Trump’s tax cuts, which many Democrats in New York, New Jersey and California oppose.

Six Democrats joined Ms. Senema, including Senators John Osoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Jackie Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada; Mark Kelly Arizona; Maggie Hassan is from New Hampshire.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia introduced an alternate amendment that passed with all Democrats’ votes.

Despite the setbacks, Democrats passed the legislation early Sunday evening.

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, who was chair of the Senate Democratic campaign committee responsible for electing Democrats and protecting incumbents, said the prescription drug side would help Democrats in the course of the campaign.

“If you look at the polling process it’s the number one issue for most people in the country right now,” he said. independent During the vote to start the discussion on the bill.

Democrats also got a life raft when Republicans didn’t raise a point of order to repeal part of the legislation that allows non-Medicare patients to cover their insulin costs.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has criticized the bill as insufficient, has proposed an amendment to allow Medicare to negotiate all drug prices instead of just ten drugs initially by 2024 and 20 by 2029.

“I think it is absolutely essential that this Congress, at least in any party, says we understand the crises facing working families, and we will stand by them, and we will vote on some serious amendments to improve this law,” he told reporters Saturday afternoon.

But a Sanders amendment on drug prices, as well as an amendment to include dental, hearing and vision care for Medicare coverage, both failed with most Democrats opposing the legislation.

Despite domestic opposition, many Democrats applauded the bill’s approval. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said it showed Democrats could engage with special interest groups.

“I mean, this is the first time you think about this, we’ve dealt with the pharmaceutical companies that never lose. We’ve had the oil companies that rarely ever lose, we’ve taken over Wall Street and we’ve been winning at all three and how important that is,” he said. .

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