House approves sweeping climate, tax, health care package
(The Hill) – House Democrats passed their sweeping tax, climate and health care bill on Friday, sending the $740 billion legislation to President Biden’s desk and securing a significant victory for Democrats less than three months before the midterm elections.
The bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, passed the House in a 220-207 party-line vote. Four Republicans did not vote.
House passage came four days after the Senate approved the bill in a party-line vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) touted the bill on the House floor during debate on Friday, arguing that it “saves the planet while keeping more money in your pockets.”
“This bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, a package for the people, increases the leverage of the public interest over the special interests, and expands health and financial security now and for generations to come,” she added.
Passage through Congress marks the culmination of more than a year of negotiations among Senate Democrats on a spending package.
The legislation will increase taxes on corporations, address climate change and bring down the prices of prescription drugs, all while lowering the deficit.
The package specifically includes $369 billion in energy security and climate investments and $64 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies for two years.
The bill offers incentives to businesses and consumers to make cleaner energy choices, including utilizing lower-carbon and carbon-free energy, and it creates new programs that will bolster investments in climate.
On the health care end, the measure will allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for 10 high-cost drugs starting in 2026. By 2029, that number is expected to grow to 20 drugs. Additionally, the measure allows caps to be placed on some drug costs, but mainly for Medicare.
To pay for the legislation, Democrats have written in a 15 percent minimum tax on income that large corporations report to their shareholders. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, only about 150 firms would be affected.
The bill also allocates $80 billion to increase enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service and ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations are not evading taxes. Additionally, a one percent excise tax on stock buybacks is included in the bill.
Passage of the bill caps off more than a year of negotiations among Senate Democrats, who had been working to come to a consensus on a spending package but failed on a number of occasions due to intra-party disagreements.
The Senate, however, finally hit a breakthrough late last month when Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced a deal for the tax-and-spending package. The Senate ultimately approved that bill on Monday through budget reconciliation, a process that allowed Democrats to pass the measure with a simple majority, bypassing what would have likely been a Republican filibuster.
Every Democrat backed the bill, including Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), the only Democrat to oppose an earlier, larger measure approved by the House that was blocked by Manchin in the Senate.
He called it “common-sense legislation” and “fiscally responsible” in a statement prior to the vote.
Some progressive lawmakers had grumbled about the bill not being as expansive as they had hoped, but the entire caucus ultimately came together to support the measure.
House lawmakers interrupted their summer break to return to Washington to complete work on the bill and send it to Biden.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) started whipping against the bill on Tuesday, slamming the bill — which his office described as “the Inflation, Recession, and IRS Army Act — in a memo to House GOP offices.
In a roughly 50-minute speech on the House floor Friday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the legislation a “misguided, tone-dead bill,” slamming it for inflationary concerns and bringing attention to elevated prices in the U.S.
Republicans during debate also took issue with the provision that allocates $80 billion to the IRS to bolster enforcement.
“Democrats more than any other majority in history are addicted to spending other people’s money, regardless of what we as a country can afford,” McCarthy said on the House floor.
“Today, now they are choosing to end the session by spending half-a-trillion dollars more of your money, raising taxes on the middle class, and giving handouts to their liberal allies,” he added.
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