U.S.

Senate Democrats battle to pass $430 billion climate, drug bill

Senate Democrats battle to pass $430 billion climate, drug bill

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate began debating a Democratic bill on Saturday to address key elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda: tackling climate change, lowering the cost of medicines for the elderly and energy, while helping businesses and the rich are forced to pay more taxes.

The debate began after the Senate voted 51-50 to move forward with the legislation. Vice President Kamala Harris broke a tie vote, with all 50 Republicans in opposition.

The Senate would debate the bill for up to 20 hours before plunging into a tedious, time-consuming amendment process called a “vote-a-rama.”

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Democrats and Republicans were poised to reject each other’s amendments, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer maneuvered to keep his 50-member caucus united behind a bill that was negotiated over several months. If even one Democrat were to peel off, the entire effort would be doomed in the evenly split 50-50 Senate. read more

Earlier in the day, the Senate MP ruled that the bulk of health care provisions in the $430 billion bill could be passed by just a simple majority, bypassing a filibuster rule that requires 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to get the most. move legislation forward and Democrats to push it past Republican objections.

Democrats hope the legislation will boost their candidates in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, in which Biden’s party finds itself in an uphill battle to retain its limited control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Democrats framed the legislation as a means of fighting inflation, a primary concern of US voters this year.

“If passed, the bill will meet all of our goals: fighting climate change, lowering health care costs, closing the tax loopholes abused by the rich and reducing the deficit” Schumer said in a speech in the Senate.

The bill’s tax provisions consist of three main parts: a minimum tax of 15% on corporations and closing loopholes that the wealthy can use to evade taxes; stricter IRS enforcement; and a new excise tax on share buybacks.

The legislation has $430 billion in new spending and more than $740 billion in new revenue. read more

Democrats have said the legislation would result in a 40% reduction in U.S. carbon emissions, responsible for climate change, by 2030.

‘PRICES AGREEMENTS’

The measure would also allow the government’s Medicare health insurance program for the elderly to begin negotiating prices with the pharmaceutical industry for a limited number of prescription drugs in 2026 as a way to reduce costs. It would also place a $2,000 per year cap on out-of-pocket medication costs under a Medicare drug program.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell attacked the provision regarding drug price negotiations, comparing it to previous “pricing” attempts by countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and the former Soviet Union.

“Their policies would create a world where far fewer new drugs and treatments are invented in the first place, as companies cut back on R&D,” McConnell said in a speech, referring to research and development.

As senators debated the policies contained in the bill, the political ramifications were also visible.

In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, former President Donald Trump predicted the fallout for Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, two key Democratic senators: “If this deal passes, they will both lose their next election.”

But Manchin and Sinema won’t be up for re-election until 2024, and many of the bill’s provisions are popular with voters.

The legislation is a scaled-down version of a much broader, more expensive measure that many Democrats on the left had hoped to pass last year. That measure faltered when Manchin, a centrist, refused, complaining it would exacerbate inflationary pressures.

The bill calls for billions of dollars to encourage the production of more electric vehicles and promote clean energy, although automakers say procurement rules will severely limit how many electric vehicles qualify for tax credits.

It would also provide $4 billion in new federal funds for drought relief, a facility that could aid the re-election campaigns of Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada and Mark Kelly in Arizona.

One provision that has been cut off the bill would have forced drug companies to pay back money to both state and private health plans if drug prices rise faster than inflation.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading liberal, has criticized the bill for not going far enough, saying he planned to propose amendments that would reinvigorate a series of social programs he pushed last year, including an easing on the number of prescription drugs Medicare could negotiate prices on and provide government-subsidized dental, vision and hearing aids.

His amendments were expected to fail.

Republicans have indicated they will table amendments addressing other issues, including controlling immigrants crossing the US border into Mexico and strengthening police forces to deal with rising crime rates in US cities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. to contain.

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Reporting by Richard Cowan and Makini Brice; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici, David Shepardson and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker

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