Updated Aug 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats pass $740 billion tax, climate and health care bill

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference about the Inflation Reduction Act
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks during a news conference about the Inflation Reduction Act. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Sunday passed their sweeping, $740 billion tax, climate and health care reconciliation package after an all-night session, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

Why it matters: The 51-50 passage of the bill, just three months before the midterm elections, is a massive victory for Democrats who have spent 18 months working toward delivering on their longstanding dreams of helping address climate change, lower the cost of prescription drugs and hike taxes on large corporations.

  • The "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022" is far less ambitious than most Democrats wanted — the initial bill was roughly $3.5 trillion and also addressed paid family leave, funding for universal preschool and expanding the child tax credit.
  • But the narrower version of the bill succeeded in getting the support of the Senate's two centrist members who had previously stood in the party's way — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
  • The package now moves to the House, where members will vote as early as Friday on advancing the bill to President Biden's desk.

Details: The Senate returned to the Capitol on Saturday afternoon, and began voting late Saturday night and into Sunday on a series of amendments — part of the process known as "vote-a-rama."

  • Senate Republicans offered dozens of amendments aimed at minimizing the bill, including stripping out funding for the Internal Revenue Service and eliminating COVID-19-related school mandates.
  • Democrats held firm in their unity, with the help of Harris, of preserving the core elements of the package and voting down each GOP amendment.

One major setback, however, was a ruling by the Senate Parliamentarian that determined Democrats' proposal to place a $35 cap on commercial insulin violated the "Byrd Rule," which governs the provisions for what can be accepted in budget reconciliation legislation.

  • Democrats tried, and failed, to attach an amendment including the insulin provision to the bill, but Republicans voted it down, eliminating it from the package.
  • Seven GOP senators — Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) — voted with Democrats.

The bill includes:

  • $370 billion for climate change.
  • Allows the federal health secretary to negotiate the prices of certain expensive drugs for Medicare.
  • Three-year extension on health care subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.
  • 15% minimum tax on corporations making $1 billion or more in income. The provision offers more than $300 billion in revenue.
  • IRS tax enforcement.
  • 1% excise tax on stock buybacks.

The significance of the climate portion: The bill is the largest investment in clean energy and emissions cuts the Senate has ever passed, with the climate portion totaling about $370 billion, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.

  • This includes tax incentives to manufacture and purchase electric vehicles, generate more wind and solar electricity and support fledgling technology such as direct air capture and hydrogen production. 
  • Independent analyses show the bill, combined with other ongoing emissions reductions, would cut as much as 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, short of the White House's 50% reduction target. However, if enacted into law, it would reestablish U.S. credibility in international climate talks, which had been flagging due in part to congressional gridlock. 
  • As part of Democrats' concessions to Manchin, the bill also contains provisions calling for offshore oil lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, and a commitment to take up a separate measure to ease the permitting of new energy projects. 

What they're saying: “Today, after more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history. I am confident the Inflation Reduction Act will endure as one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

  • "Our bill reduces inflation, lowers costs, creates millions of good-paying jobs and is the boldest climate package in U.S. history. This bill will kick start the era of affordable clean energy in America. It’s a game changer, a turning point. And it’s been a long time in coming.”
  • “Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob American families a second time,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • President Biden praised the passage of the bill in a statement Sunday, saying, "Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share.  I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period." 
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