The U.S. Senate passed a sweeping $430 billion bill intended to fight climate change, lower drug prices and raise some corporate taxes on Sunday, a major victory for President Joe Biden that Democrats hope will aid their chances of keeping control of Congress in this year’s elections.
After a marathon, two-day weekend session of debate and Republican efforts to derail the package, the Senate approved the legislation known as the “Inflation Reduction Act,” by a 51-50 party line vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking ballot.
The action sends the measure on to the House of Representatives for an expected Friday vote that could forward it, in turn, to the White House for Biden’s signature.
“The time is now to move forward with a big, bold package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the start of debate on Saturday night.
He said the legislation contains “the boldest clean energy package in American history” to fight climate change while reducing consumer costs for energy and some medicines.
Democrats have drawn harsh attacks from Republicans over the legislation’s $430 billion in new spending and roughly $740 billion in new revenue.
Nevertheless, Democrats hope its passage, ahead of an August recess, will help Democratic House and Senate candidates in the Nov. 8 midterm elections at a time when Biden is suffering from anemic public approval ratings amid high inflation.
The legislation is aimed at reducing carbon emissions and shifting consumers to green energy, while cutting prescription drug costs for the elderly and tightening enforcement on taxes for corporations and the wealthy.
Because the measure pays for itself and reduces the federal deficit over time, Democrats contend that it will help bring down inflation, an economic liability that has also weighed on their hopes of retaining legislative control in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.
Republicans, arguing that the bill will not address inflation, denounce the measure as a job-killing, left-wing spending wish list that could undermine growth when the economy is in danger of falling into recession.
Democrats approved the bill by using a parliamentary maneuver called “reconciliation,” which allows budget-related legislation to avoid the 100-seat chamber’s 60-vote threshold for most bills and pass on a simple majority.