Senate Passes Climate, Health And Tax Package After Marathon Session; Legislation Heads To House

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UPDATE: The Senate on Sunday passed a $700 billion package to address climate change, curb the rising cost of prescription drugs and extend Affordable Care Act benefits.

Senate Democrats broke out in applause after Vice President Kamala Harris announced the 50-50 vote and broke the tie for passage.

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The Inflation Reduction Act, a compromise forged by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), next heads to the House, expected to vote on Friday.

The legislation will raise revenue in part through a 15% minimum take on major corporations that make profits of $1 billion a year.

The passage came after an all-night and all-day long series of votes on amendments to the legislation, a process that has been dubbed “vote-a-rama.”

“It has been a long sought winding road, but at a last we have arrived,” Schumer said on the floor before the final Senate vote. “I know it has been a long day and long night, but we have gotten it done.”

After passage, he predicted that the bill would “change America for decades.” “To those of you who have lost faith that Congress can do big things, this bill is for you,” he said.

It marks the largest federal investment in fighting climate change, at about $400 billion. It also extends additional Affordable Care Act subsidies, and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. The latter is a provision that has been a long-sought Democratic priority that has been opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. The bill also caps seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $2,000 annually.

The legislation also includes $300 billion for deficit reduction.

The passage was a key victory for Schumer and Democrats, who for more than a year debated over a giant package, at one time as large as $3.5 trillion. But Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) held out on supporting such a package, called the Build Back Better Act.

By mid-afternoon on Sunday, it appeared as if the legislation may be in jeopardy, as Sinema had misgivings about provisions of the corporate minimum tax. She backed an amendment offered by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to narrow the scope of the minimum tax. Although it passed, Democrats followed it up with another amendment to raise more revenue by extending limitations on deductions for corporate losses.

Democrats fell short in an effort to include in the legislation a $35 cap on the cost of insulin. Seven Republicans joined with all Democrats on the cap, but that was three short of the 60 needed. Still, a limit on insulin costs for Medicare patents remained in the final version.

The fact that the legislation got no Republican support was little surprise. Democrats had from the start pursued the bill through the budget reconciliation process, in which certain types of legislation can advance by simple majority and avoid the threat of a filibuster.

The pressure was on Democrats to pass legislation before the midterms, which typically sees the party in power suffer a loss of seats, if not their majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) chided Democrats for passing such a massive bill with no Republicans votes. “The last time Senate Democrats tried to remake the economy on party lines, they shoved American families into the worst inflation in 40 years,” he said. “Democrats got all-you-can-eat liberal spending and working families got stuck with the bill.”

But when Senate Republicans were in the majority in 2017, they passed a $1.5 trillion tax reform bill along party lines, also using the budget reconciliation process.

PREVIOUSLY: The Senate on Saturday voted to advance a $700 billion package to address climate change, curb the rising cost of prescription drugs and extend Affordable Care Act benefits.

The bill also will make a number of changes to the tax code, including the establishment of a 15% corporate minimum tax, intended to target major conglomerates that avoid paying taxes through a mixture of loopholes and other accounting maneuvers.

The legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, now likely has the votes for final passage, a big victory for a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s agenda, which looked to have stalled out earlier last month. The vote was 50-50 to bring the legislation to the floor, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the ties.

Before it clears the Senate, the legislation will have to go through a lengthy process of debates and what is referred to as vote-a-rama, in which Republicans and Democrats are expected to offer an array of amendments can be offered. That is expected to last until early in the morning on Sunday. Democrats have been working toward passage of the bill through the intricate legislative process of reconciliation, which allows bills to get to the floor by simple majority rather than the usual 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster.

Once the legislation passes, it will head to the House, where a vote is scheduled for next Friday.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is a groundbreaking bill for the American people: for families struggling to pay the bills, for seniors struggling to pay for medications, for kids struggling with asthma,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor of the Senate before the vote to proceed. “This bill is for them.”

Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) surprised Capitol Hill last week when they announced agreement on a proposal for $300 billion in deficit reduction and $370 billion in climate change and energy programs over the next decade. Manchin had been a holdout on Democrats’ more ambitious Build Back Better legislation, leading many Republicans to believe that any kind of major bill was dead.

The bill also would extend an expansion of the Affordable Care Act through 2025, and allow for Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs.

The 15% minimum tax, meanwhile, would apply to companies that report $1 billion in profit, and impact those conglomerates who have been paying well below the 21% corporate rate. The legislation also anticipates increased IRS enforcement.

There have been some additional changes to the legislation to win the support of another Democratic centrist, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who demanded that the legislation remove a tax provision that would have limited the carried interest loophole. She also sought a preservation of bonus depreciation for companies.

Instead, a new provision was added to the legislation to add a 1% tax to stock buybacks.

The corporate minimum tax is aimed at companies that pay less than the 21% corporate rate using tax loopholes. When a 15% minimum was proposed tax last year, its chief backers Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) singled out Amazon, noting that it paid 4.3% in federal tax on the $45 billion in corporate profits over the past three years.

Content and media companies also have had varying effective tax rates, which factor in deductions and state and local taxes. Netflix’s effective rate was 12.39% in 2021, while Comcast’s was 27.54%, according to CSI Market data.

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