Politics Astonished Democrats set to clear finish line with climate, tax, health care package
Historic climate bill faces state schism on clean energy
The sweeping package that passed the Senate yesterday is raising several critical energy questions for the nation's climate future: Where would new wind turbines and solar panels go? And would a surge in renewable energy bridge a sharp red-state, blue-state political divide that has defined the climate issue for the past decade? According to a new report from Princeton University, the pace of yearly wind power installations could double and solar generation could increase fivefold by 2025-2026 from 2020 levels, fueled by decadelong tax incentives in the act.
For more than a year, Democrats have wrestled with the massive climate, health and tax package at the center of their domestic agenda, triggering clashes between the various party factions and sparking doubts about President Biden’s capacity to unite his troops behind transformative legislation.
This week’s vote to get the enormous proposal over the finish line will feature no such drama.
House Democrats of all stripes are lining up to approve the Senate’s $740 billion tax-and-spending package on Friday when the lower chamber returns briefly to Washington, sending the legislation to Biden’s desk and securing a huge win for the president and his party less than three months from the midterm elections.
In Biden's big bill: Climate, health care, deficit reduction
WASHINGTON (AP) — The biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change. A hard-fought cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors in the Medicare program. A new corporate minimum tax to ensure big businesses pay their share. And billions left over to pay down federal deficits. All told, the Democrats' “Inflation Reduction Act” may not do much to immediately tame inflationary price hikes. But the package heading toward final passage in Congress and to the White House for President Joe Biden's signature will touch countless American lives with longtime party proposals.
It seems likely the bill could clear the House without a single Democratic defection, whether from the left or center of the party.
The universal accolades reflect, at least in part, the Democrats’ astonishment that they’re voting on any major part of Biden’s domestic agenda at all.
Just a few weeks ago, the prospects of enacting a massive climate package this year appeared to be dead, buried under the opposition of centrist senators — most notably Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — wary of exacerbating inflation with new federal spending.
The bill’s revival — a deal worked out privately between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — has drastically expanded the Democrats’ legislative accomplishments under Biden, providing them a late political boost as they head into midterm elections that are expected to shift control of the House to the Republicans.
House Democrats advance tax and climate bill, kicking off debate
House Democrats advanced their multibillion-dollar climate, tax and health care bill on Friday, teeing up final passage of the legislation that is key to President Biden’s domestic agenda later in the day. The House approved the rule for the bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, in a party-line 219-208 vote, opening three hours of debate…The House approved the rule for the bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, in a party-line 219-208 vote, opening three hours of debate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Three Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.
“This is a big deal, this is historic. And I’m anxious to get it to the floor, pass it, and get it to the president’s desk,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Rules Committee, told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday night.
“People like me wanted a lot more, right? But the bottom line is you can only get done what’s possible within the reality you’re living,” he continued. “And in any other Congress, if we were to pass one of these things — one component of what is in this reconciliation bill — it would be huge.”
The package features major changes across the spectrum of domestic policy, including efforts to slash drug costs for seniors; expand health care subsidies for the working classes; cut deficit spending via corporate tax hikes; and incentivize both businesses and individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. All told, it represents the most comprehensive effort to combat climate change in the nation’s history.
How Democrats’ surprise climate and health care bill came together after months of setbacks and reversals
The Inflation Reduction Act, aimed at addressing climate change, taxes, and health care, passed by the House Friday after a surprise deal fueled by ultimatums and Zoom calls.Her fellow centrist Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, had cut a surprise deal with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a sweeping climate, health care and tax package that most people in their party had left for dead.
“It’s a great bill; it’s historic,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters this week in the Capitol. “I want more, of course — we always want more. But this is a great deal.”
Pelosi and her House Democratslate last year: a $2 trillion proposal that bolstered not only environmental and health care programs, but also a number of social benefit initiatives — things like child care subsidies, universal preschool and paid family leave — that were left out of the slimmer bill passed by the Senate on Sunday.
The exclusions have prompted some grumbling from progressive lawmakers who’d fought for a more expansive package; but none of them appear ready to oppose the Senate bill to protest its size.
Indeed, House liberals — including the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the members of the far-left “squad” — have been all praise, cheering on the legislation as it’s moved through the Senate to the House for Friday’s vote.
“While we are heartbroken to see several essential pieces on the care economy, housing, and immigration left on the cutting room floor — as well as a successful Republican effort to remove insulin price caps for those with private insurance — we know that the Inflation Reduction Act takes real steps forward on key progressive priorities,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Progressive Caucus.
Joe Manchin wrecked Biden's economic agenda last year. He ended up saving a lot of it in the last month.
Manchin signed onto the largest climate bill that Congress ever put together after blocking the Democratic agenda for months.That quip from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York in early March summed up the depth of Democratic frustration with perhaps its most stubborn member: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. As winter turned to spring, Democrats were rudderless. Their economic agenda was shattered and they hadn't truly begun sorting through the wreckage of their Build Back Better plan. Russian troops pouring into Ukraine sent gas prices soaring, compounding their political problems.
Across the ideological divide, leaders of the Blue Dogs, a group of centrist budget hawks, are also hailing the package as transformative, touting its powers to reduce federal deficit spending on top of the domestic initiatives it promotes.
“We remain laser-focused on solving our nation’s major economic, energy, and climate problems for future generations, and will move swiftly to send this bill to the President’s desk,” the Blue Dog co-chairs — Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) — said in a statement.
With a razor-thin majority in the House, and every Republican expected to oppose the proposal, Democrats will need the support of almost every member of the caucus to get it to Biden’s desk. But if last year’s vote on the $2 trillion package is any preview, they have little reason to worry.
That larger Build Back Better package had passed easily; only one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), had voted against it. And the smaller Senate bill is expected to sail through the House on Friday in similar fashion.
“If you can get Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer and Kyrsten Sinema all to vote for something, … I’ve gotta believe this is going to pass,” McGovern said. “I don’t know of any Democrats that are going to defect.”
AP-NORC poll: Many in US doubt their own impact on climate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are less concerned now about how climate change might impact them personally — and about how their personal choices affect the climate — than they were three years ago, a new poll shows, even as a wide majority still believe climate change is happening. The June Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which was conducted before Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday, shows majorities of U.S. adults think the government and corporations have a significant responsibility to address climate change. The new law will invest nearly $375 billion in climate strategies over the next decade.
Golden’s office did not respond to a request for comment, buthe has praised at least parts of the Senate bill.
For Pelosi, who has led House Democrats for almost two decades, the bill represents a huge legislative victory in a long career that’s been full of them. It also includes a number of provisions that she’d prioritized in her first stint as Speaker, more than a decade ago, but failed to enact.
In 2009, for instance, House Democrats had passed a sweeping climate change bill only to see it go ignored by Democrats in the Senate. A separate proposal empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prescription prices for seniors also moved through the lower chamber during those years, but did not become law.
“This is something we’ve been fighting for decades, and Big Pharma has had a grip on the Congress,” she said this week.
Across the aisle, Republicans have decidedly different views of the enormous package, saying the soon-to-be-passed legislation will only damage a fragile economy already reeling from months of instability and rising consumer costs. GOP leaders are also focusing squarely on one provision of the package — new funds for the IRS to go after tax cheats — with warnings that it will empower the nation’s tax collectors to “harass” working class people.
“When you have more cops you have more arrests,” Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), senior Republican on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said this week in an interview with Fox News. “You’re going to see a lot of that revenue to pay for this bill coming from those middle-class working families who can least afford the IRS targeting and harassing them.”
Democrats have dismissed the GOP criticisms, noting that the major provisions of the package all score high in public opinion polls. If the victory doesn’t change the broader outcome of the midterm elections, they say, it can do nothing but help them in individual races.
“I wouldn’t want to go home and explain to my constituents why I voted against lowering their prescription drug costs. … Or go home and say I did nothing to combat the climate crisis; or I did nothing to pay down the debt,” McGovern said.
“I mean, if that’s what they want, they can go ahead and do it.”
Mychael Schnell contributed.
'Changed history': Gore, environmentalists react to landmark climate change bill .
'Changed history': Gore, environmentalists react to landmark climate change billTo many longtime leaders in the climate movement, it is a watershed moment: a directional shift from inaction and fossil fuel dependence to a clean energy future. Recognizing the bill’s limitations and shortcomings — it is expected, at most, to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 2005 levels by 2030 — they argued it is only the first step of many that will be taken.