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Democrats’ big package on climate, health care and taxes clears major hurdle in Senate


WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Saturday to advance a sweeping climate and economy bill with the support of all 50 Democrats, bringing long-stalled items on President Joe Biden’s agenda one step closer to reality.

The procedural vote on the anti-filibuster package was 51 to 50, with all Republicans opposed to the motion to open the debate and Vice President Kamala Harris voting for the tiebreaker. If that support holds, just pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House in the next few days.

The legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, includes significant spending to fight climate change and expand health care coverage, paid for with savings on prescription drugs and corporate taxes. It is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on deficit reduction.

“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said before the vote.

“It will mean a lot to the families and people of our country,” Harris said as she arrived to break the 50-50 tie.

The procedural vote, during a rare weekend session, kicks off several hours of debate, followed by a “vote-a-rama” – a process in which senators can propose amendments practically unlimited which require a simple majority of votes to be adopted.

The legislation isn’t subject to the filibuster — it’s being pursued through a special process called reconciliation, which allows Democrats to pass it on their own. But the process has limits; the policies included in the bill must be related to spending and taxes and the legislation must adhere to a strict set of fiscal rules. It’s the same process Democrats used to pass the US bailout in 2021 and Republicans used to pass Trump’s tax cuts in 2017.

Ahead of Saturday’s vote, the Senate congressman ruled that key Democratic provisions on clean energy and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices were accepted and could be included in the inflation package, said Democratic leaders.

“Although there was an unfortunate decision that inflation reimbursement has a more limited scope,” Schumer said, “the overall program remains intact and we are about to finally take on Big Pharma and reduce Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”

The Democrat-only package, which includes several elements of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, was long considered dead after Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., rejected a larger bill in December. He struck a deal last week with Schumer, pleasantly surprising many of his fellow Democrats, and has since gone on a media blitz to sell him.

“It’s a red, white, and blue bill,” Manchin said on MSNBC recently, calling it “one of the greatest bills” and “the bill we need to fight terrorism.” ‘inflation, to have more energy’.

On Thursday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, after a week of silence, approved the bill after making some changes.

Sinema forced Democrats to remove a provision that would have limited tax relief on interest earned, allowing wealthy hedge funds and investment managers to pay a lower tax rate.

“We had no choice,” Schumer told reporters.

Instead, it was replaced by a new 1% excise tax on share buybacks that is expected to raise $74 billion, five times more than the carried interest provision, Schumer said. Sinema also secured $4 billion in funding for drought prevention in Arizona and other western states.

Prior to its changes, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would reduce the deficit by about $100 billion over a decade, with the potential for an additional $200 billion in revenue from bolstering the resources of the IRS for the application.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R.S.D., promised “tough votes for Democrats” in the rama voting process.

“The question is, in the end, are these amendments going to be amendments that could change the bill? Could make it better. It might make it harder to get through the House, who knows? Thune said Friday.

Some Democrats are concerned that Republicans are proposing poison pill amendments on contentious issues like immigration and crime that could win a majority of votes in the Senate – eliminating some moderate and vulnerable senators who are at risk of re-election. this fall — but alienating other Democrats and disrupting the fragile deal.

“I certainly can’t support it, if foreign provisions are passed, especially pejorative immigration provisions that have nothing to do with the health, welfare, and safety of the American people,” he said. this week Sen. Bob Menendez, DN.J., on MSNBC. .

On Saturday, a handful of Senate Democrats took to Twitter and urged their colleagues to hold the line and vote against amendments that could jeopardize the package.

“I will vote NO on all the amendments, even those with which I agree”, tweeted Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. “This bill makes historic progress on climate action and lowering prescription drug costs. It has 50 votes, and we need to stick together to make it happen.”

Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., agreed with this strategy. “A number of us have already tweeted that we’re going to vote no on the amendments we like and don’t like,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“There’s such a moral urgency…to push through a bill that’s going to address the existential threat of climate change. I think it’s motivating and I see even more unity than normal.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said Friday that the amendment process would be unpleasant. “What will vote-a-rama be like? It will be hell,” he said.



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