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U.S. Senate Democrats get the green light on $430 billion climate, drug bill


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a news conference to tout the $430 billion drug pricing, energy and tax bill championed by Democrats on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. August 5, 2022. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

U.S. Senate Democrats on Saturday were set to push ahead on a bill that might address key elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda – tackling climate change, lowering the associated fee of energy and elderly people’s medications and forcing some corporations and wealthy Americans to pay more taxes.

The Senate parliamentarian determined that the lion’s share of the health-care provisions within the $430 billion bill could possibly be passed with only a straightforward majority, bypassing a filibuster rule requiring 60 votes within the 100-seat chamber to advance most laws and enabling Democrats to pass it over Republican objections, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an announcement.

The Senate began its rare weekend session at around noon (1600 GMT). Saturday will kick off an arduous process that would extend into early next week, with senators offering amendment after amendment in a time-consuming “vote-a-rama.”

Democrats hope that the laws will make stronger their candidates within the Nov. 8 midterm elections during which Biden’s party is in an uphill battle to retain its narrow control of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Democrats solid the laws as a vehicle to combat inflation, a major concern of U.S. voters this yr.

“Democrats have received extremely excellent news,” Schumer said within the statement. “Medicare will finally be allowed to barter drug prices. … That is a serious victory for the American people.”

Medicare is the federal government medical insurance program for the elderly and certain Americans with disabilities.

There are three fundamental parts to the tax provisions within the bill: a 15% minimum tax on corporations and the closing of loopholes that the rich can use to avoid paying taxes; tougher IRS enforcement; and a latest excise tax on stock buybacks.

The laws has $430 billion in latest spending together with raising greater than $740 billion in latest revenues.

Beside billions of dollars to encourage the production and buy of more electric vehicles and foster clean energy, the bill would set $4 billion in latest federal drought relief funds. The latter is a move that would help the re-election campaigns of Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada and Mark Kelly in Arizona.

Senator Tom Carper, the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, said climate provisions including the methane emissions reduction program were approved by the Senate parliamentarian.

Republicans have promised to do all the things they will to stall or block the bill, with Senator Lindsey Graham on Friday calling the Democratic-backed laws “this jihad they’re on to tax and spend.”

Democrats aim to push the bill through the Senate using an arcane and complex “reconciliation” procedure allowing passage with none Republican support within the chamber divided 50-50 between the parties, with the Democrats on top of things because Vice President Kamala Harris can solid a tie-breaking vote.

One provision cut from the bill would have forced drug corporations to refund money to each government and personal health plans if drug prices rise more quickly than inflation. The parliamentarian ruled that measure couldn’t apply to non-public industry.

Senators on the left similar to Bernie Sanders are prone to attempt to expand the scope of the bill to incorporate latest programs similar to federal subsidies for childcare or home healthcare for the elderly. Republicans have signaled that they may offer loads of amendments touching on one other issue: immigrants coming across the U.S. border with Mexico.

Several Democratic senators said they might vote against all amendments, fearing that these could make a carefully negotiated deal unravel.

“I’ll vote NO on all amendments – even for stuff I like,” Democratic Senator Brian Schatz wrote on Twitter. “I can consider plenty of ways to strengthen it, but I won’t derail this bill by supporting changes.”

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