US Senate votes to pass Joe Biden's 'historic' climate, tax and healthcare package

This summer, Americans have been suffering what most scientists agree are the hellish effects of climate change, from wildfires in California, to catastrophic floods in Kentucky. But now, the US Senate has passed the most sweeping action on climate change the United States has ever seen. Ben Chapman reports

The US Senate has voted to advance a major climate, healthcare, and tax bill after a marathon debate and series of amendments that went through the night.

President Joe Biden's landmark package is aimed at lowering healthcare costs, raising corporation taxes, reducing the federal budget deficit and strengthening efforts to combat climate change.

The Bill passed strictly along party lines, 50 to 50, with US Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bill "historic" as Senators prepared to vote on its passage.

The bill now heads to the US House of Representatives, which is expected to come into session on Friday, 12 August. If it passes, it will be sent for Biden’s signature.

US president Joe Biden Credit: AP

Harris spoke to reporters after the passage of the bill, saying: "Today is a great day."

The estimated $740 billion (£611bn) package heads next to the House, where lawmakers are poised to deliver on Biden's priorities.

The deal includes new funding to tackle climate change.

Clean energy use would be fostered with tax credits for buying electric vehicles and manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines.

There would be home energy rebates, funds for constructing factories building clean energy technology and money to promote climate-friendly farm practices and reduce pollution in minority communities.

Vice President Kamala Harris Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

“It's been a long, tough and winding road, but at last, at last we have arrived,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said 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 voting marathon that began on Saturday and stretched late into Sunday afternoon.

Democrats swatted down some three dozen Republican amendments designed to torpedo the legislation.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer Credit: ITV News

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.

“I think it’s gonna pass,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House early Sunday to go to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, ending his Covid isolation.

The House seemed likely to provide final congressional approval when it returns briefly from summer recess on Friday.

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 (£330bn) - caps out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare to $2,000 (£825) 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 $300bn (£247bn) extra revenue for deficit reduction.

Barely more than one-tenth the size of Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion (£2.9tn) progressive 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 Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, West Virginia, opposed it, saying it was too costly and would fuel inflation.

Non-partisan analysts have said the “Inflation Reduction Act” would have a minor effect on surging consumer prices.

Republicans said the measure would undermine an economy that policymakers are struggling to keep from plummeting into recession.

They said the Bill's business taxes would hurt job creation and force prices skyward, making it harder for people to cope with the nation's worst inflation since the 1980s.

“Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob American families a second time," Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, argued.

He said spending and tax increases in the legislation would eliminate jobs while having insignificant impact on inflation and climate change.

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