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U.S. Senate Democrats’ bill will make mark on climate, health-care costs


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds his weekly news conference after the Democratic caucus party luncheon on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, August 2, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The $430 billion climate change, health-care and tax bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Saturday delivers a significant win for Democrats, and can help reduce the carbon emissions that drive climate change while also cutting costs for the elderly.

Democrats hope the bill, which they pushed through the Senate over united Republican opposition, will boost their probabilities within the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when Republicans are favored to recapture the bulk in at the very least one chamber of Congress.

The package, called the Inflation Reduction Act, is a dramatically scaled-back version of a previous bill backed by Democratic President Joe Biden that was blocked by maverick Senate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema as too expensive.

“It’s what the American people want,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. “We’re prioritizing the center class, working families, those struggling to get to the center class, as a substitute of what Republicans do: prioritize those on the very top.”

The Senate’s partisan 51-50 vote, with the tiebreaking vote coming from Vice President Kamala Harris, sends the laws on to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which is predicted to pass it on Friday, after which Biden could sign it into law.

Republicans blasted the bill as a spending “wish list” that they argued would hurt an economy weighed down by inflation, saying it could kill jobs, raise energy costs and undermine growth at a time when the economy is facing a possible recession.

“Senate Democrats are misreading the American people’s outrage as a mandate for one more reckless taxing-and-spending spree,” top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said on Saturday. “Democrats need to ram through a whole lot of billions of dollars in tax hikes and a whole lot of billions of dollars in reckless spending — and for what?”

About half of Americans — some 49% — support the bill, including 69% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans, in response to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Aug. 3 and 4. The preferred element of the bill is giving Medicare the ability to barter drug prices, which 71% of respondents support, including 68% of Republicans.

Economists, who say the laws could help the Federal Reserve combat inflation, don’t expect a sizeable impact on the economy in the approaching months.

Climate focus

With $370 billion in climate-focused spending, it could turn into probably the most consequential climate change bill ever passed by Congress.

The bill offers businesses and families billions in incentives to encourage purchases of electrical vehicles and energy-efficient appliances, in addition to to spur latest investments in wind and solar energy that may double the quantity of recent, clean electricity-generating capability coming online in the US by 2024, in response to modeling by the Repeat Project at Princeton University.

That will help put the U.S. on the right track to satisfy its pledge to slash its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 below 2005 levels, made eventually yr’s Glasgow climate summit.

While environmental groups largely embraced the bill, they noted that compromises secured by Manchin, who represents coal-producing West Virginia, would delay U.S. use of fossil fuels.

Those provisions include rules that may only allow the federal government to authorize latest wind and solar energy developments on federal land when it is usually auctioning rights to drill for oil and natural gas.

Drug costs

The laws would lower drug costs for the federal government, employers and patients, said Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the Medicare program on the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Perhaps the most important effect can be for individuals with prescription drug coverage through Medicare,” she said.

A key change is the supply allowing the federal Medicare health plan for older and disabled Americans to barter lower prescription drug prices.

The pharmaceutical industry says price negotiation would stifle innovation. Negotiated prices for 10 of the most expensive drugs for Medicare would apply starting in 2026, with that number rising until it caps at 20 a yr in 2029.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates Medicare would save $101.8 billion over 10 years by negotiating drug prices.

The supply also introduces a $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket costs for the elderly through the Medicare program.

Tax provisions

The bill also imposes a latest excise tax on stock buybacks, a late change after Sinema raised objections over one other provision that may have imposed latest levies on carried interest, currently a tax loophole for hedge fund and personal equity financiers. The supply was dropped.

The excise tax is predicted to boost a further $70 billion in tax revenue per yr, lawmakers said. That’s greater than the carried interest provision had been forecast to boost.

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released prior to that last change estimated the measure would cut back the federal deficit by a net $101.5 billion over the subsequent decade.

That was about one-third of the $300 billion in deficit reduction predicted by Senate Democrats, but excluded a projected $204 billion revenue gain from increased Internal Revenue Service enforcement.

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