WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats plan to hold a procedural vote Saturday on their key domestic policy bill known as the Cut Inflation Act, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Thursday. (DN.Y.).
If all 50 Senate Democrats vote to move the measure forward, the earliest the bill could get a final vote is early next week.
The legislation would allow Medicare to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to lower prescription drug prices, a hugely popular policy change that Democrats have been seeking for years. The bill would invest more than $300 billion in green energy grants and tax incentives, and ultimately save the government hundreds of billions by funding tougher IRS enforcement and imposing a new minimum tax to the most profitable companies.
Its passage would cap off an exceptionally productive session of Congress and give President Joe Biden a major victory ahead of November’s midterm elections.
“We’ve got some big stuff here,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told HuffPost on Thursday.
On Thursday evening, the Democrats won the support of their last resistance, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) in exchange for several changes to the bill, including eliminating a provision that would tighten a tax loophole associated with hedge fund managers and private equity executives.
Sinema declined to speak to reporters on Thursday. She said in a statement that Democrats have “agreed to remove the deferred interest tax provision, protect advanced manufacturing, and boost our clean energy economy in Senate budget reconciliation legislation.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also said he was disappointed with the prescription drug provision, but refrained from saying he would vote no. “I want to see him improve,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Another hurdle is the Senate parliamentarian—a behind-the-scenes Senate official who decides whether various provisions of the bill are allowed through the Senate’s arcane “budget reconciliation” process. Reconciliation allows Democrats to pass their bill by a simple majority, meaning if all 50 Democrats agree, they don’t need a single Republican vote.
Policies deemed “foreign” by the parliamentarian under reconciliation rules must be discarded. The congressman forced Democrats to drop a federal minimum wage hike as part of a reconciliation bill last year.
GOP senators filed objections to nearly every provision of the bill with the congressman in hopes of killing or significantly weakening its structure. Democrats are still waiting to hear the fate of their prescription drug proposal as well as several revenue provisions.
Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he’s optimistic Democrats will come out of the reconciliation “gauntlet” with most of their bill intact. He praised Elizabeth MacDonough, who has been an MP since 2012, as a “straight shooter”.
Democrats had originally hoped to pass a much broader social policy bill known as ‘Build Back Better’, but couldn’t get Manchin to agree last year on things like paid vacations. and a monthly child allowance. Negotiations between Manchin and Schumer continued, however, even though it looked like there was no chance Democrats could unite around a more modest bill.
The bill’s new name is a nod to Manchin’s ongoing concerns about rising prices. A number of top economists said the measure would slow inflation. The Congressional Budget Office, however, said on Thursday that the legislation would have a “negligible effect” on inflation this year but could reduce it next year.
After the initial vote to proceed with the bill on Saturday, there will be up to 20 hours of debate, followed by a marathon session known as “vote-a-rama”, where senators will vote on an unlimited number of amendments. This process usually takes up to 20 additional hours.
Republicans are hoping to convince Sinema and other moderates to join them in voting for some of their nonbinding amendments that seek to expose Democratic divisions with an eye on the midterms.
Schumer on Thursday appeared to allow the ballot plan to slip, saying only, “We plan to vote on the motion to proceed with reconciliation legislation on Saturday afternoon.”
The Huffington Gt