Inflation Reduction Act: Senate set to pass after long debate

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Senate Democrats were set to approve a sprawling bill on Sunday to tackle climate change, cut health care costs, revise the tax code and cut the deficit, after working all night and all morning to defeat fierce Republican opposition.

More than 13 hours into a sluggish debate, party lawmakers appeared on track to deliver the political centerpiece of President Biden’s stalled economic agenda. The impending vote marked a stunning coda after months of infighting within Democratic ranks between liberals pushing ambitious economic reforms and more cautious centrists.

Dubbed the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, the proposal delivers on a years-long commitment Democrats have made to try to lower prescription drug costs for seniors. It also authorizes the largest-ever increase in spending to combat global warming, totaling around $370 billion, with the aim of boosting clean energy and cutting global warming emissions by 40% by 2030.

In part by changing federal tax laws — mostly to target tax evaders and some billion-dollar companies that pay nothing in U.S. taxes — the bill would raise more than enough money to cover the new spending. Democrats said the proposals would also generate an additional $300 billion to reduce projected budget deficits over the next 10 years. But they did not provide a final estimate of the bill’s tax effects.

“This landmark bill will reduce inflation, cut costs, fight climate change, and it’s time to move this nation forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) at the start of the debate.

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As they have for months, Republicans went to the Senate for hours to blame the measure for worsening inflation, which is rising at the fastest rate in four decades. They portrayed his tax increases as a threat to workers and their wages, even though the bill would not increase personal tax rates, and derided his proposal to increase tax collector funding. tax to the Internal Revenue Service.

“From our perspective, we’ll see these tax increases happen and Americans are going to feel it,” Sen. Mike Rounds (RS.D.) said during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” .

Republicans quickly began pushing through a battery of amendments aimed at undermining the bill — and forcing Democrats to take politically tough votes. Some have inclined to limit federal authority to regulate emissions; others have made proposals to stop the IRS from receiving more money, hiring new officers and vetting potential tax evaders.

On immigration, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) specifically sought to preserve a public health order issued earlier in the pandemic that restricts border crossings, describing it in a speech as the “last line of defense that our border patrol agents must protect our nation.

But Lankford’s amendment targeting border control powers authorized under Title 42 quickly flopped – like every other proposal put forward overnight.

On several occasions, the GOP found itself powerless to block or substantially change legislation, blocked by a newly united and emboldened Democratic caucus. Otherwise, the all-night process, known in Senate parlance as the vote-a-rama, proceeded at breakneck speed – the Senate still appeared to be on track for a vote on the final approval at some point on Sunday.

Democrats plan to pass their spending proposal in a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows them to regroup, avoid a GOP filibuster and approve the legislation with 50 votes plus the decisive support from Vice President Harris.

Permitting the vote, Schumer has negotiated a series of agreements in recent days with the centrist Democratic resisters Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona). The deals won their elusive and much-needed support, but again forced Democrats to scale back their ambitions to redo large swathes of the US economy and tax code.

The resulting spending package differs significantly from the larger, roughly $2 trillion, Build Back Better Act that Biden has called for and the House passed late last year. This measure included more ambitious plans to offer free pre-kindergarten nationwide, provide paid family and medical leave, and expand Medicare benefits and a host of federal safety net benefits. But the bill never won Manchin’s support, ultimately forcing Democrats back to the drawing board this spring.

As the debate over the Cut Inflation Relief Act entered its second day, many Democrats came to accept these compromises as necessary; without them, they may not have a bill at all. But the chief architect of their larger original ambitions, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), spoke in the Senate to express concern over its narrow scope.

In a lengthy speech, Sanders slammed Republicans for failing to “stand up for the working families of this country” before turning to Democrats. He implored the party he caucused with to restore many of the provisions cut to win Manchin’s support, including expanded health insurance benefits and more generous tax credits for families with children.

“We have to show them that we are able to represent the needs of ordinary Americans and not just wealthy campaign contributors,” Sanders said, arguing that the bill had “some good features, but also some really bad features.” .

But Democrats ultimately rejected Sanders’ appeals. Many said they did so reluctantly, as they supported his ideas, but were unwilling to upset the delicate deal struck with Manchin and Sinema.

The clumsy policy was evident early Sunday when Sanders tried to reinstate a plan to provide families with expanded child tax credit payments. Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), one of the idea’s leading proponents, rose to the floor to ask for a vote against because they could “lose the underlying bill.”

The amendment failed with only one yes vote — Sanders — and all other senators voted no.

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