Democrats capped a series of legislative victories over the past couple of weeks with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Sen. Joe Manchin’s substitute for the Build Back Better bill passed earlier in the House.
The Daily Beast reports, Senate Dems Finally Pass Sweeping Spending Bill After Chaotic ‘Vote-a-Rama’:
After more than a year of painstaking and dramatic negotiations, Democrats on Capitol Hill finally passed a sweeping climate, tax, and health care bill Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t quite as sweeping as most Democrats had wanted. What was once supposed to be a $5 trillion bill—and then a $3.5 trillion, and then $3 trillion, and then $1.5 trillion, and then $1 trillion—ended up as a $400 billion measure, spread over the next 10 years, that would actually decrease deficits by more than $300 billion over that time period by closing tax loopholes.
It’s hardly the package President Joe Biden and the vast majority of Democrats had aimed for, but it’s the one Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would allow them to have. And even if Democrats had hoped for more, they were ecstatic to cap off one of Biden’s best weeks in office with passage of the legislation.
The Senate approved the bill Sunday afternoon 50-50, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all Republicans voting against it. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie and approved the bill thanks to the legislative process called reconciliation, which eliminates the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for bills that meet certain conditions.
The legislation now heads to the U.S. House, where there are no serious concerns that the Democratic majority there will sink the legislation that finally got unanimous Senate Democratic support.
In a reflection of their biggest political challenge right now, Democrats branded the bill as the “Inflation Reduction Act,” packed with a grab-bag of various policy priorities on climate change, health care, and tax reform.
Biden and Democrats spent much of 2021 trying to get the multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better package across the finish line. But Manchin balked at spending such a sum given rising inflation—and opposed many of the key climate measures—while Sinema killed proposals to raise the money to pay for the bill by modifying a tax code that is structured to benefit Wall Street and big business.
As the November midterms drew nearer, most observers assumed the chances of Democrats using the reconciliation process to pass a party-line bill had essentially vanished. But Manchin shocked the Capitol in late July, when he and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced they’d struck a deal on the broad contours of the bill.
While much smaller than Build Back Better, the legislation contains proposals that most Democrats see as huge achievements.
It devotes $300 billion to climate change measures that aim to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, something seen near-universally among Democrats as a massive win. It contains one of the party’s most long-awaited reforms: allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. And it also institutes a minimum tax on corporations of 15 percent, which could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for the programs in the bill and pay down the deficit.
[P]redictably, Sinema became the last roadblock, and spent a week publicly silent on the bill while raising objections that leaked later to the press. Ultimately, the Arizona senator extracted her concessions—which included eliminating a tax loophole that benefits big finance—and gave her sign-off to the bill.
Progressives who were eager to leverage unified Democratic control of Washington to finally pass long-awaited priorities were disappointed. Before the Senate advanced the bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), called it an “extremely modest” piece of legislation.
“We are living a moment of unprecedented crises,” Sanders said. “This bill does virtually nothing to address any of them.”
Still, Senate passage of the bill caps off one of Biden’s very best stretches during his nearly two years in office.
In the last 10 days, Biden saw the House and Senate pass a high-tech manufacturing measure, Manchin reach agreement with Schumer on the reconciliation bill, Republicans take heat for voting down veterans legislation (only to then reverse themselves and pass the legislation when they realized their political blunder), gas prices hit a summer low, the U.S. military take out a top Al Qaeda leader, voters give Democrats new hope by overwhelmingly and surprisingly rejecting a ballot measure to ban abortion in Kansas, unemployment match a 50-year low, and the U.S. report that more than 500,000 jobs were added in July—a strong indication that the economy is not in a recession.
The bill now heads to the House, which will come back into session on Friday. If it passes, it will be sent to President Biden for his signature.
UPDATE: Politico Playbook excerpt:
MEANWHILE, the president is about to make history.
Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will make Biden one of the most legislatively successful presidents of the modern era. We once noted that the mismatch between the size of Biden’s ambitions and his margins in Congress made it seem like he was trying to pass a Rhinoceros through a garden hose. It ended up being more like a pony, but it’s still pretty impressive.
— American Recovery Act: $1.9 trillion
— Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: $550 billion
— Chips and Science Act: $280 billion
— Inflation Reduction Act: ≈$700 billion
That’s a nearly $3.5 trillion agenda. The scope of the issues addressed is notable: the pandemic and its economic fallout, highways, bridges, broadband, rail, manufacturing, science, prescription drug prices, health insurance, climate change, deficit reduction and tax equity.
He also expanded NATO, passed a new gun safety law and passed a bill to address the effects of vets exposed to toxic burn pits. Five out of seven of these laws — all but the two biggies, the ARP and IRA — received significant Republican support.
There’s not much debate anymore over whether Biden has been a consequential president. In the long run, his first two years may be remembered as akin to LBJ when it comes to moving his agenda through Congress.
Elect more Democrats to Congress with larger majorities and imagine how much Democrats can deliver for the American people. Those things that were blocked by Sens. “Machinema” and 50 Republicans in the Senate will now become possible.