Inflation Reduction Act: Senate set to pass after long debate


Senate Democrats worked Sunday to quell a series of last-minute skirmishes that slowed passage of a sprawling package aimed at cutting health care costs, raising business taxes, cutting the budget deficit federal government and inject a historic burst of cash into climate action efforts. change.

More than 17 hours into a sluggish marathon debate, party leaders 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.

But Democrats faced a political setback early Sunday when Republicans reversed a key part of their plan to cut prescription drug costs. GOP lawmakers successfully invoked Senate rules to strike from the bill a plan to cap the price of insulin at $35 for diabetics who get it through private insurance. Democrats have maintained a cap on insulin costs for seniors under Medicare.

“The reality is that the cost of insulin is not just out of control, it’s devastating people,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said before nearly all Republicans voted to weaken the provision.

Despite the support of seven Senate Republicans, an amendment to include a $35 insulin price cap in the Inflation Reduction Act failed to get 60 votes on Aug. 7. (Video: The Washington Post)

Separately, Democrats have been sparring behind the scenes to block a push by Republicans targeting their plan to impose a billion-dollar minimum corporate tax that currently pays nothing to the US government. An amendment sponsored by Sen. John Thune (RS.D.) could create a special exception in the minimum tax for private equity.

Thune’s idea seemed to catch the attention of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), and the pair huddled with Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.); the support of Sinema and Manchin is essential to the passage of the bill. Shortly after noon, Sinema declined to comment to reporters as she left the talks. Manchin used a flight metaphor to discuss the stalled talks, telling reporters, “Three missed approaches.” Coin said talks are ongoing.

The talks have frustrated some Democrats, who have struggled to preserve the carefully crafted deal in its current form. And that carried big stakes for the legislation: some estimates show that the exclusion could reduce the revenue generated by the legislation by $35 billion over the next decade. Earlier changes to the bill and its tax provisions requested by Sinema have also benefited private equity, hedge fund and real estate managers. A Sinema spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Dubbed the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, the broader proposal respects Democrats’ years-old commitment to try to lower prescription drug costs for seniors. It also authorizes the largest ever spending injection to tackle 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 — primarily to target tax evaders and some billion-dollar corporations that pay nothing in taxes in the United States — the bill would raise more than enough money to cover new expenses. 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.

By allowing the vote, Schumer has negotiated a series of agreements in recent days with the recalcitrant Democratic centrists, Manchin and Sinema. 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 Better Rebuild 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 they were not inclined to upset the delicate agreement reached 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.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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