Democrats Push Biden’s Climate, Health Priorities to Senate OK

Democrats drove their election-year economic package toward Senate approval early Sunday, debating a measure less ambitious than President Joe Biden’s original national vision, but one that touches on the party’s deep-rooted dreams of slowing the global warming, moderate pharmaceutical costs and tax huge corporations.

The debate began on Saturday and by early Sunday morning Democrats had crushed more than a dozen Republican amendments aimed at torpedoing legislation or creating campaign ads attacking Democratic senators. Despite unanimous opposition from the GOP, Democratic unity in the 50-50 chamber – underpinned by Vice President Kamala Harris’ decisive vote – suggested the party was on course for a morale-boosting three-month victory. elections when congressional control is at stake.

President Joe Biden walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, en route to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., after his final COVID-19 isolation, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Manuel Balcé Ceneta)

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

“I think it will pass,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House early Sunday to travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, ending his COVID-19 isolation. The House appeared on track to provide final congressional approval when it briefly returns from the summer. recess Friday.

“It will reduce inflation. This will reduce prescription drug costs. It will fight against climate change. It will close tax loopholes and reduce the deficit,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said of the package. “It will help every citizen of this country and make America a better place. best place.”

Republicans said the measure would undermine an economy that policymakers are struggling to prevent from plunging into recession. They said the bill’s business taxes would hurt job creation and drive up prices, making it harder for people to cope with the country’s worst inflation since the 1980s.

“The Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob American families a second time,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. while having an insignificant impact on inflation and climate change.

Nonpartisan analysts said the Democrats’ “Cut Inflation Act” would have a minor effect on soaring consumer prices. The bill is just over a tenth the size of Biden’s initial rainbow of $3.5 trillion 10-year progressive aspirations and abandons his proposals for universal early childhood education, paid family leave and extended childcare support.

Even so, the new measure gives Democrats a campaign season showcase for action on coveted targets. It includes the largest-ever federal effort on climate change — nearly $400 billion — gives Medicare the power to negotiate pharmaceutical prices and extends expiring subsidies that help 13 million people afford insurance sickness.

Biden’s initial measure fell apart after conservative Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., opposed it, saying it was too costly and would fuel inflation.

In a test imposed on all budget bills like this, the Senate had to endure an overnight “vote-a-rama” of swift amendments. Each tested the Democrats’ ability to hold together a compromise brokered by Schumer, the Progressives, Manchin and the inscrutable centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proposed amendments to further expand the health benefits of the legislation, and those efforts were defeated. Most of the votes were forced by Republicans and many were designed to make Democrats look lenient on US-Mexico border security and gas and energy costs, and like bullies for wanting to bolster the IRS tax law enforcement.

Before debate began on Saturday, the bill’s prescription drug price restrictions were watered down by the nonpartisan Senate congressman. Elizabeth MacDonough, who arbitrates questions on chamber proceedings, said a provision should fall that would impose costly penalties on drugmakers whose price increases for private insurers exceed inflation.

It was the bill’s main protection for the 180 million people with private medical coverage that they get through work or buy themselves. Under special procedures that will allow Democrats to pass their bill by a simple majority without the usual 60-vote margin, its provisions must focus more on dollar-and-cent budget numbers than policy changes .

But the bulk of their pharma price talk remained. This involved letting Medicare negotiate what it pays for drugs for its 64 million elderly beneficiaries, penalizing manufacturers for outpacing inflation on pharmaceuticals sold to Medicare, and limiting drug costs for beneficiaries. at $2,000 per year.

The bill also caps patient costs for insulin, the expensive diabetes drug, at $35 per month.

The measure’s final costs have been recalculated to reflect the late changes, but overall would bring in more than $700 billion over a decade. The money would come from a minimum tax of 15% on a handful of companies whose annual profits exceed $1 billion, a 1% tax on companies that buy back their own shares, a strengthening of tax collections IRS and government savings from lower drug costs.

Sinema forced Democrats to scrap a plan to prevent wealthy hedge fund managers from paying less than personal income tax rates on their earnings. She also joined other Western senators in winning $4 billion to fight drought in the region.

It was on the energy and environment side that the compromise was most evident between the progressives and Manchin, a champion of his state‘s fossil fuels and coal industry.

Clean energy would be encouraged by tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. There would be household energy rebates, funds for building factories developing clean energy technologies and money to promote climate-friendly farming practices and reduce pollution in minority communities.

Manchin won billions to help power plants reduce their carbon emissions, as well as language demanding more government auctions for oil drilling on federal lands and waters. Party leaders have also promised to push separate legislation this fall to expedite permits for energy projects, which Manchin wants to include a near-complete gas pipeline in his state.

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