WASHINGTON — The House on Friday passed a sweeping Democratic bill to fight climate change, expand health coverage and raise taxes on businesses, voting along party lines to send the legislation to President Joe Biden for signature.
The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act marks a major victory for Democrats in the run-up to the November midterm elections, marking nearly a year of internal negotiations and braving numerous near-death experiences for the bill.
The legislation — which the Senate passed by 51-50 votes on Sunday, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — now goes to Biden, who said in a tweet that he plans to sign it into law next week.
“We’ve accomplished a lot under President Biden: the rescue package and the infrastructure bill and CHIPS and Science. It’s quite a collection. But this is remarkable,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC News on Friday. “This is a source of joy.”
The House vote was 220-207, split evenly along party lines as Democrats united to support the bill, while Republicans voted unanimously against it.
Ahead of the vote, Pelosi highlighted four key provisions in the bill: allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, extending funding for the Affordable Care Act by three years, a series of energy and climate change provisions. and reduce the deficit.
The legislation would bring in about $700 billion through corporate tax increases and prescription drug savings, and it would spend about $400 billion on clean energy and healthcare facilities.
It was a rare defeat for the pharmaceutical lobby on Capitol Hill. But other influential industries, such as private equity, beat some of the provisions that would have negatively impacted them.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., predicted that “the Inflation Reduction Act will continue to stand as one of the defining legislative achievements of the 21st century.”
GOP hits ‘half a trillion spending’
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., urged all Republicans to vote against the bill, calling it a “half a trillion spending that would raise taxes during a recession.”
“If this bill comes to the House, I urge everyone to vote no,” he said in a recent statement.
The package falls far short of what most Democrats would have wanted, with safety net items removed by Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and a slew of tax increases blocked by Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. But privately, Pelosi’s message to colleagues was: judge the bill by what it does, not what it doesn’t. In the end, the Democrats embraced it.
Moderate Democrats said it would cut energy and health care costs, citing deficit savings to argue it would reduce inflation.
“I think it’s absolutely phenomenal for Ohio,” said D-Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, who is a Republican state Senate candidate.
And progressives praised the largest package in US history to combat climate change, which addresses the problem through a slew of benefits for electric vehicles and clean energy products.
“In terms of climate, this is the most sweeping piece of legislation we will pass,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chairman of the progressive caucus. “It’s also the first time we’ve at least got a toe in the door from Big Pharma’s price gouging.”
At the same time, Jayapal said she is “heartbroken” that the measure excludes a host of other Democratic priorities, including guaranteed paid family leave, childcare funding, child tax credit payments, universal pre-K and immigration relief.
Republicans have rejected the new taxes in the bill, as well as the additional funding for IRS enforcement, warning it would lead to more audits. Democrats argue the legislation provides a mechanism to deal with sophisticated tax evaders and strengthen refund processing and customer service for ordinary Americans.
Overshadowed by Trump?
Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., scammed Democrats for their focus on climate change. “There is no climate crisis,” he said in a passionate speech on the floor. “It’s a hoax.”
Some Republicans did see a silver lining: The Democratic bill keeps most of 2017’s Republican tax cuts, largely at the urging of Sinema, who objected to any rate hike.
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, an author of the 2017 law, said it is “largely protected” in the new Democratic bill, though he said the 15% corporate tax minimum would be harmful. “Yes, a lot of the Republican tax cuts – Trump’s tax cuts – have been passed.”
The vote came at a time when much of the national spotlight was seized by the fallout from a recent FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s property, Mar-a-Lago.
It was a source of frustration for some Democrats, who would have preferred bragging about the bill this week.
“I don’t think it will be overshadowed by Trump. But Trump is like a planetary object that has its own gravity, and that certainly draws a lot of public attention,” said D-Calif Representative Adam Schiff.
Democrats said the bill was more important.
“The news and the history books often don’t rhyme. And I think if people look back on this period, they’ll write more — much more — about the biggest climate investment the country has ever made than anything,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN.Y., the chairman of the Congressional Democrats’ campaign arm, said that decreasing inflation “can’t happen soon enough” and that Americans are more in tune with their lives.
“I think my constituents care a lot more about what’s on their paychecks than what’s in Trump’s basement,” he said.