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With Harris's vote, Senate Democrats pass a $740 billion energy and health care bill

Sunday, Democrats in the Senate passed a bill that dealt with energy, taxes, and health care by a razor-thin margin, sending the bill to the House of Representatives.

The $740 billion package called the Inflation Reduction Act passed with the help of the deciding vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. The vote was 51 to 50.

Before the final votes, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, "It's been a long, hard, and winding road, but we've finally made it."

"The Senate is changing the past. I'm sure that the Inflation Reduction Act will be one of the most important pieces of legislation in the 21st century.

During a so-called "vote-a-rama" on Saturday night and Sunday morning, quick changes were put forward. Due to reconciliation, Democrats didn't need the usual 60 votes to pass the bill. Instead, they only needed a simple majority.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said, "Today, Senate Democrats took the side of American families over special interests." "When I ran for president, I said I would make government work again for working families, and this bill does just that — end of story."

The spending plan includes a $400 billion federal effort to fight climate change, which is the biggest one ever. It also caps out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 per year. It also extends subsidies that help 13 million people pay for health insurance and are about to end.

The plan would be paid for by raising taxes on corporations, which would bring in an extra $300 billion to help pay down the deficit.

The money would come from a minimum tax of 15% on a group of companies with annual profits of more than $1 billion and a tax of 1% on companies that buy back their own stock. Funds would also come from the IRS collecting taxes better and the government saving money because drugs cost less.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the bill's spending and tax increases would hurt jobs and have little effect on inflation and climate change.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., left, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. arrive for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017.
The Senate approved Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s Inflation Reduction Act Sunday.
AP/Carolyn Kaster

“Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob American families a second time,” McConnell said.

The package is much smaller than President Biden's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, which did not get enough support in the Senate because Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said months ago that the price tag was too high and would add to rising inflation.

But Manchin and Schumer worked out a deal for the most recent domestic agenda a few weeks ago. Manchin praised the bill because "it provides a responsible way forward that is laser-focused on solving our country's major economic, energy, and climate problems."

Tax credits could be used to buy electric cars, build solar panels and wind turbines, and buy or build solar panels. Also, there would be money for energy rebates for homes and for building factories that focus on clean energy technology.

If Manchin wins, billions of dollars would go to power plants to reduce carbon emissions, and more government auctions for oil drilling on federal land and water would be needed.

Still, the package didn't reach all of the goals Democrats had for it, because the GOP was against it.

The bill's main goal was to lower the prices of prescription drugs, but it failed when the Senate's nonpartisan parliamentarian said a part that would punish drug companies whose price increases for private insurers are higher than inflation should be taken out.

Democrats also wanted private insurance companies to pay no more than $35 per month for insulin, but the GOP was able to stop this because of a rule about how Congress works. But Medicare patients would still be limited to a maximum of $35.

When lawmakers come back from summer break for a short time on Friday, the bill would be taken up by the House, which is mostly run by Democrats. If the House approves it, the bill would go to President Biden to be signed into law.


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