US Senate approves climate change bill, lower drug costs

US Vice President Kamala Harris waves as she departs the Senate after casting the tie-breaking vote in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. (Photo: Drew Angerer)

The US Senate has passed a US$430 billion measure to combat climate change, decrease medication prices, and boost certain corporate taxes, a significant victory for President Joe Biden that Democrats hope would increase their chances of retaining control of Congress this year's elections.

After a long, 27-hour weekend session of debate and Republican attempts to derail the bill, the Senate enacted the Inflation Reduction Act on a party-line vote of 51 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the decision.

This motion takes the bill to the House of Representatives for a vote, likely on Friday. The bill could then be submitted to the White House for President Biden's signature. In a statement, Biden urged the House to move swiftly and expressed his eagerness to put the bill into law.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "The Senate is making history," after pumping his arms in the air as Democrats rejoiced and their staff members replied with a standing ovation following the vote.

"To Americans who've lost faith that Congress can do big things, this bill is for you," he said. This bill will transform America for decades.

Schumer stated that the plan had "the boldest clean energy package in American history" to combat climate change while decreasing consumer costs for energy and certain pharmaceuticals.

Republicans have attacked Democrats harshly over the bill's US$430 billion in additional expenditure and US$740 billion (NZ$1.2 trillion) in new income.

Nonetheless, Democrats hope the bill's ratification before the August recess will benefit the party's House and Senate candidates in the 8 November midterm elections, when Biden's public favor ratings are low due to inflation.

The Act aims to reduce carbon emissions and transition consumers to green energy while reducing the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly and increasing tax enforcement for corporations and the wealthy.

Because the policy is self-financing and cuts the federal deficit over time, Democrats argue that it would help reduce inflation, an economic liability that has hampered their chances of keeping legislative control in the 2024 presidential election.

Republicans, contending that the package will not address inflation, have attacked the measure as a job-killing, left-wing spending wish list that could impede economic growth when a recession is imminent.

Using a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation, which permits budget-related legislation to sidestep the 100-seat chamber's 60-vote barrier and pass with a simple majority, Democrats passed the bill.

After several hours of debate, the Senate began a Saturday evening "vote-a-rama" on Democratic and Republican amendments that lasted until Sunday.

More than thirty Republican amendments, points of order, and moves to derail the law were defeated by the Democrats. Any change in the bill's provisions caused by an amendment would have jeopardized the 50-senator coalition required to keep the package on track.

No limit on insulin prices

However, they could not assemble the votes necessary to keep a clause that would have capped insulin costs on the private health insurance market at US$35 (NZ$56) per month, as it violated reconciliation rules. Democrats stated that the plan would continue to reduce insulin costs for Medicare recipients.

In a preview of the upcoming fall election campaign, Republicans exploited amendment failures to attack weak Democrats up for reelection in November.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell stated that Democratic Senators Mark Kelly of Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Raphael Warnock of Georgia voted to perpetuate the mayhem on the southern border. All four face complex reelection campaigns.

Biden's original, expansive Build Back Better plan was scaled back in response to criticism from Republicans and critical senators within his party.

"It demanded numerous concessions. Performing significant activities virtually always, "Biden said in a statement.

Publish : 2022-08-08 07:24:00

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