Democrats pushed their election-year economic package to Senate passage Sunday, a hard-fought compromise less ambitious than President Joe Biden’s original domestic vision but one that still meets deep-rooted party goals of slowing global warming, moderating pharmaceutical costs and taxing immense corporations.
The estimated $740 billion package heads next to the House, where lawmakers are poised to deliver on Biden's priorities, a stunning turnaround of what had seemed a lost and doomed effort that suddenly roared back to political life. Cheers broke out as Senate Democrats held united, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote after an all-night session.
“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests,” President Joe Biden said in a statement from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. “I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period.”
Biden, who had his share of long nights during his three decades as a senator, called into the Senate cloakroom during the vote on speakerphone to personally thank the staff for their hard work.
The president urged the House to pass the bill as soon as possible. The House seemed likely to provide final congressional approval when it returns briefly from summer recess on Friday.
“It's been a long, tough and winding road, but at last, at last we have arrived,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ahead of final votes.
“The Senate is making history. I am confident the Inflation Reduction Act will endure as one of the defining legislative measures of the 21st century.”
Senators engaged in a round-the-clock marathon of voting that began Saturday and stretched late into Sunday afternoon. Democrats swatted down some three dozen Republican amendments designed to torpedo the legislation. Confronting unanimous GOP opposition, Democratic unity in the 50-50 chamber held, keeping the party on track for a morale-boosting victory three months from elections when congressional control is at stake.
The bill ran into trouble midday over objections to the new 15% corporate minimum tax that private equity firms and other industries disliked, forcing last-minute changes.
Despite the momentary setback, the “Inflation Reduction Act” gives Democrats a campaign-season showcase for action on coveted goals. It includes the largest-ever federal effort on climate change — close to $400 billion — caps out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare to $2,000 a year and extends expiring subsidies that help 13 million people afford health insurance. By raising corporate taxes, the whole package is paid for, with some $300 billion extra revenue for deficit reduction.
Barely more than one-tenth the size of Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion Build Back Better initiative, the new package abandons earlier proposals for universal preschool, paid family leave and expanded child care aid. That plan collapsed after conservative Sen. Joe. Manchin, D-W.Va., opposed it, saying it was too costly and would fuel inflation.
Nonpartisan analysts have said the “Inflation Reduction Act” would have a minor effect on surging consumer prices.