The U.S. Senate voted Saturday night along the party line to advance debate on Democrats’ broader energy, health care and tax bills, removing a major obstacle to passage.
A 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie, opened the House for debate and voted on changes to the measure, indicating Democrats had enough support to overcome a unified Republican opposition.
“We will show the American people that we are capable of passing a historic climate package, reining in pharmaceutical companies and making our tax laws fair,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote. “We are able to make big promises and work hard to keep them.
“It’s one of the most comprehensive and sweeping pieces of legislation Congress has faced in decades,” the New York Democrat said. “It will help almost every citizen of this country and make America a better place.”
As expected, all Republicans voted against the measure. Republicans inside and outside the Senate have criticized the measure for overspending during the recession while doing little to address consumer inflation, which they say is the most important problem facing Americans.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell focused his comments on measures that allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of some prescription drugs, saying it would drastically limit research and development efforts in the private sector.
“Democratic policy isn’t going to bring a heaven where we get all the wonderful new innovations that we got anyway, but at lower prices,” he said. “Their policies will create a world where very few new drugs and treatments are invented as companies curtail their research and development.”
The White House said Saturday that President Joe Biden’s administration “strongly supports” the bill.
“This law will reduce healthcare, prescription drug and energy costs, invest in energy security and make our tax laws fair – all while fighting inflation and reducing deficits,” the government’s policy statement said. ”
The vote opened a rare weekend Senate session – while the chamber was due to take place during its August recess – which is expected to include 20 hours of debate in a “vote-a-ram” and the consideration of 40 to 50 amendments.
Depending on how long the debate and votes on amendments last, the final vote is expected either on Sunday or Monday.
The law, drafted primarily by Schumer and Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III. Prices may be negotiated. Change tax laws by 2026 and strengthen internal tax enforcement to generate more than $400 billion in new revenue over 10 years.
A July 29 analysis by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania found that the bill would have a negligible effect on inflation.
After negotiating with the cinema and submitting the bill to a Senate lawmaker to ensure all provisions can be considered during the budget vote, Democrats released an updated 755-page bill for open debate minutes before the vote on Saturday.
The reconciliation process allows Democrats to pass the bill by a simple majority instead of the usual 60-vote limit.
The CBO sent Schumer the updated bill with Saturday’s incomplete score. It is estimated that seven of the eight spending classes will add $115 to the deficit over 10 years. It did not include sales forecasts.
Subsequent amendments to the bill included an additional $4 billion to help combat western droughts.
Western democratic sense. Katherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Mark Kelly of Arizona and Michael Bennett of Colorado announced they have received Bureau of Reclamation funding to help combat droughts in Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.
“The Western United States is facing an unprecedented drought and it is imperative that we have the resources needed to support our states’ efforts to combat climate change, conserve water resources and protect the Colorado River Basin ‘ he said in a joint statement.
Democrats also added a provision to cap the price of insulin co-payments for Americans at $35 by 2024. However, the insulin language on the floor could be challenged by Republicans.
Another provision, pushed by Virginia Democrat Senator Tim Kaine and included in a first draft of the bill, would permanently expand the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which would provide monthly payments to disabled coal miners who developed black lung disease in the meantime and medical benefits granted in coal work. mine
According to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, lower prescription drug costs and the change in tax laws more than offset the bill’s spending and reduce the deficit by about $100 billion. Additional IRS enforcement would reduce overall losses by approximately $300 billion.
Those estimates haven’t stopped Republicans from criticizing the law as a “tax-and-spend” measure.
Republican Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy said Friday the deficit reduction would be less than 1% of the nation’s GDP 10 years from now.
“That would be a total goal error,” he said. “So that’s what they use to justify it, and that’s their strongest argument, it’s a very, very weak strong argument.”
Most of the amendments to the Democrat-penned bill are expected to come from Republicans, with some aimed at forcing Democrats into hard-line political positions ahead of the November election.
John Barrasso, chair of Wyoming’s GOP convention, said Republicans would propose changes in immigration, crime, inflation and energy policies.
US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the amendment votes would be “like hell”.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said the chamber will return from its August recess on Friday to vote on legislation passed by the Senate.