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The Senate voted along party lines Saturday afternoon to advance a sweeping bill to reform the tax code, tackle climate change and lower the cost of prescription drugs, taking a big step in forward to give President Biden a major victory ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The Senate voted 51 to 50 to pass the 755-page bill, after Vice President Kamala Harris arrived at the Capitol to vote in the event of a tie.
The vote puts the bill on a course to pass the Senate on Sunday, barring an unexpected setback, such as the sudden absence of a Democratic senator.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) hailed the bill’s impending passage as a major achievement.
“The time has come for the Senate to begin debate on this historic piece of legislation. The Inflation Reduction Act is a revolutionary bill for the American people, for families struggling to pay bills, for seniors struggling to pay for their medications, for children struggling with asthma said Schumer moments before the vote.
“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” he said, promising it would reduce inflation, cut drug costs, fight climate change and close tax loopholes.
The procedural vote sets up 20 hours of debate to be split equally between Democrats and Republicans, followed by an open round of amendment votes, known as a vote-a-rama.
MPs from both parties, however, predict they will give in most of the time to get through amendments more quickly.
Senate Republicans expect votes on between 40 and 50 amendments.
A final vote will take place on Sunday.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that the legislation will “kill American jobs and hammer our manufacturing sector” and “have no meaningful impact on global temperatures.”
He warned that empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices would hurt research and development in the pharmaceutical industry.
“The policy would create a world where far fewer drugs and treatments were invented in the first place,” he said.
Republicans want to inflict as much political damage on vulnerable Democratic incumbents such as the Sens. Mark Kelly (Arizona) and Raphael Warnock (Ga.) by forcing votes on border security, national energy production, inflation and crime.
Democrats have their own plan to force Republicans to vote tough on capping out-of-pocket insulin bills at $35 a month.
They expect to challenge a Senate congressman’s ruling against a Warnock-sponsored provision to cap insulin prices. Democrats say Republicans who vote to support an objection to the insulin supply are undermining an effort to fight inflation and help Americans with diabetes.
The broader legislation will generate about $740 billion in revenue by implementing a 15% minimum corporate tax, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, and imposing an excise tax of 1% on share buybacks.
The Senate voted on Saturday to begin debate on the Inflation Reduction Act after receiving an updated analysis of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO estimates the bill will reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade.
Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who negotiated the bill, say it will reduce the deficit by more than $300 billion over ten years.
The corporate minimum tax will raise $258 billion in revenue but exempt full expense deductions for businesses in all industries — a change Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) negotiated with Schumer.
Giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices is expected to save the government $288 billion over ten years, and the excise tax on stock buybacks will bring in $74 billion.
An additional $124 billion in revenue will come from improving IRS operations and strengthening tax compliance enforcement.
It would spend $369 billion on energy security and climate change programs that are expected to cut global warming emissions by 40% by 2030.
It would provide money for consumer home energy rebates, grants to make affordable housing more energy efficient, and tax credits to accelerate domestic manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries.
It would offer generous tax credits for the purchase of new and used electric vehicles, although critics of the bill say these credits could not be used immediately because they do not apply to vehicles equipped with batteries produced in China or dependent on Chinese minerals.
It would extend expiring health insurance premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for three years, at a cost of $64 billion.
A group of Senate Democrats worked Saturday afternoon to persuade fellow Democrats to vote against any amendments to the bill because it could upset the delicate compromise brokered by Schumer and the two centrists who have held out for months: Manchin and Sinema.
“I don’t vote for the amendments. I’m trying to keep this bill clean and get it out of here. It’s too important.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he plans to propose an amendment to dramatically expand Medicare’s power to negotiate lower drug prices, which he says would help to raise 900 billion dollars over ten years.
He wants to use the money to expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age to 60 and extending the addition of comprehensive dental, vision and hearing benefits.
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