Senate Passed Inflation Reduction Act After 16 Hour Vote-A-Rama
From Build Back Better, to Manchin says no, to Build Back Manchin, to the rebranded Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden and Democrats finally have some of their long-delated agenda passed regarding healthcare and climate, among other things.
The Senate on Sunday approved a sweeping package to combat climate change, lower health-care costs, raise taxes on some billion-dollar corporations and reduce the federal deficit, as Democrats overcame months of political infighting to deliver the centerpiece to President Biden’s long-stalled economic agenda.
The party-line vote was a milestone in a tumultuous journey that began last year when Democrats took control of Congress and the White House with a promise to bring financial relief to ordinary Americans. With a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Harris, the 50-50 Senate sent the bill to the House, which aims to approve it and send it to the White House for Biden’s signature later this week.
Dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the package would authorize the biggest burst of spending in U.S. history to tackle global warming — about $370 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. The proposal also would make good on Democrats’ years-old pledge to reduce prescription drug costs for the elderly.
In part by tweaking federal tax laws — chiefly to target tax cheats and some billion-dollar companies that pay nothing to the government — the bill is expected to raise enough money to cover its new spending. Democrats say the measure is also expected to generate an additional $300 billion for reducing projected budget deficits over the next 10 years, though they have not yet furnished a final fiscal analysis of their legislation.
“This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in a decade,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview before the bill’s passage in the Senate. “Things that Americans have longed for, and couldn’t get done.”
The package is the byproduct of the political realities in the narrowly divided Senate, where Republicans stood immovably opposed to the bill and Democrats had to negotiate among themselves to shepherd it to the chamber floor. It hinged on a breakthrough deal negotiated in late July between Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a moderate who nearly eight months ago single-handedly scuttled a previous attempt to advance his party’s agenda. And its fate teetered at one point because of a last-minute snag with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
To assuage Manchin, Democrats had to give up some of their more ambitious plans — free prekindergarten for all, paid family and medical leave for workers nationwide — and offer new support for fossil fuels. To satisfy Sinema, meanwhile, party leaders repeatedly dialed back their proposed tax policies, particularly those targeting wealthy investors.
In the final hours of debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tried unsuccessfully to restore some of the jettisoned proposals, including a significant expansion of Medicare to provide dental, vision and hearing coverage to the elderly. Delivering multiple fiery speeches, Sanders implored his colleagues to improve a bill that “does nothing” to address the greatest financial challenges facing families.
Repeatedly, though, Democrats rejected even ideas they once supported — leaving Sanders the lone aye vote on the amendments — as they labored to protect a compromise bill they saw as fragile. Many Democrats emphasized the need to overlook the losses and savor the gains in a package that weeks earlier had seemed out of reach.