Democrats in the US Senate were brimming with confidence on Saturday as a major part of Joe Biden’s legislative agenda looked finally poised to pass through the upper chamber.
The caucus gathered for a marathon weekend session set to begin Saturday afternoon and last through as late as 9.00 in the morning on Sunday. Republicans readied a gauntlet of poison-pill amendments for the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at killing Democratic consensus on the legislation, which is billed as a second attempt at pushing through parts of Mr Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act.
Even before the votes began, a handful of Democrats were out with statements on Twitter projecting a unified front. Many vowed to vote down any amendment to the package, even including ones brought by their own Democratic colleagues.
We have much more to do to meet our climate and equity commitments, but after a yearlong fight, we have a deal that has 50 votes and makes historic investments. This weekend, I will vote accordingly to protect that deal, which means voting no on amendments, even ones I support.
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) August 6, 2022
Senate Dems can enact historic legislation that lowers costs, combats climate change, and more. While there is more I’d like to see included, I’ll vote NO on amendments - even ones I agree with - to protect this bill. We must stick together to reject attempts to divide us.
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) August 6, 2022
This one is so delicately balanced that ANY amendment, even a “good” one, risks upsetting the balance — so look forward to a lot of “no” votes on things we would ordinarily want. Don’t be surprised.
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) August 6, 2022
In interviews with more than half a dozen Senate Democrats, The Independent has confirmed that others are making those same plans. Only a few said they would file amendments to the bill themselves, and were not even sure that they would call votes on those amendments on the floor.
“My sense is, the people I’ve talked with, want to just handle it and be able to go home,” noted Sen Dianne Feinstein. “I don’t anticipate a problem [getting the legislation passed].”
“I don’t believe any amendments will be in the final package before we vote,” Sen Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, said in a gaggle with reporters.
Sen Bob Menendez offered only “we’ll see” when asked how unified his caucus was against amendments to the package, while noting that he personally would not vote for any.
Some of those changes are likely to be offered by Sen Bernie Sanders, who confirmed in a press gaggle on Saturday that he would call for votes on provisions to block fossil fuel handouts in the bill and allow Medicare to negotiate insulin prices.
Meanwhile, Republican senators including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a key swing vote who often negotiates across the aisle, told reporters that they would be introducing their own amendments as well. No one offered much confidence that they would see any pass.
That won’t stop them from trying for hours to sink it, however. Sen Mark Warner of Virginia quipped that there was “bipartisan consensus” that the Senate wasn’t going to get much work done for the next 12 or so hours.
While much of the priorities that Democrats, including Joe Biden, wanted to see in the original Build Back Better Act did not make it into the IRA, the new legislation does still make the most significant investment in preparing for climate change of any legislation in US history. It aims to cut US carbon emissions by 40 per cent by the end of the decade.
The deal, a result of negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and centrist Democrat Joe Manchin, is being heralded as a major victory for their party and an embarassing defeat for Republicans, who thought they had successfully halted Mr Biden’s agenda last year.