The U.S. Senate finally moved forward with the Inflation Reduction Act this weekend, a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better Act that still faced strong opposition from Republicans (so much so that all of the GOP senators voted against it). The bill finally got enough votes after centrist Democrat Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer came to an agreement about specific energy initiatives, like the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia.
The bill is more than 750 pages long and full of initiatives for renewable energy and health care that are going to help North Carolinians. It’s something to celebrate — even if our own senators failed to step up and support the legislation, just like the other 48 Republicans in the Senate.
For the 1.97 million North Carolinians on Medicare, which benefits people over 65 or with long-term disabilities, the legislation will save them money on the things they need to keep living. The bill also caps the out-of-pocket costs for Medicare users at $2,000 — which would save the average Medicare Fee-for-Service user in North Carolina more than $13,000, and the average Medicare Advantage user more than $9,000. That plan goes into effect in 2025.
The other noteworthy parts of the bill are related to climate change. Even if the Inflation Reduction Act isn’t as comprehensive as climate activists envisioned, the legislation is the largest federal move on climate change ever. There are subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles, as well as manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines. These are all things that North Carolina has been looking toward expanding in recent years, whether by welcoming car manufacturer VinFast or growing to be one of the top states in the country for solar power.
““While we realize this is not a perfect bill, it is our best hope to date in addressing the climate crisis, expanding clean energy jobs, making prescription drugs more affordable, and creating a more equitable America,” Carrie Clark, executive director of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “Let’s get this bill across the finish line and on President Biden’s desk this week.”
While Senate Democrats are celebrating this win, both Richard Burr and Thom Tillis voted against the entire bill, as well as an amendment that capped the cost of insulin for those with private insurance at $35. Diabetes affects more than 12 percent of the state’s adult population and almost a quarter of the population over 65, according to data from the United Health Foundation. Republicans led the charge to kill the amendment.
“I voted against this reckless tax and spending spree because it will cause more pain for North Carolinians already struggling to fill up their gas tanks and pay for their groceries and other essential goods their families need,” Tillis said in a statement. It’s the second time the senator has come under fire for votes this week, after he voted against the PACT Act three separate times in Congress despite writing part of it.
Tillis is right that taxes will be raised, although the degrees in which they raise vary by income level. His remarks are likely based on the tax analysis from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, which didn’t take into account the money families would be saving on health care bills and through these initiatives that encourage changes to reduce the effects of climate change. It also increases corporate income tax on the highest-earning businesses in the country to help pay off the deficit.
The Inflation Reduction Act will likely go to a vote in the U.S. House this week. While we don’t anticipate North Carolina Republicans to stray from the party, we hope that they don’t take credit for any of these benefits down the road.