Senate Democrats power through vote-a-rama on health care and climate bill
Washington DC - Senate Democrats on Saturday advanced their long-delayed health care, tax, and, climate bill following months of uncertainty over whether the major legislation could be passed before the US midterm elections.
The Senate voted along party lines, 50-50, to start debate on the Inflation Reduction Act, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie as president of the Senate.
Democrats are passing the bill using a procedure called reconciliation, which doesn't allow for a Republican filibuster.
"This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades," said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
"It will reduce inflation. It will lower prescription drug costs. It will fight climate change. It will close tax loopholes and it will reduce the deficit. It will help every citizen in this country and make America a much better place."
The bill would allow the federal government to begin to negotiate drug prices in Medicare – albeit slowly – and would create incentives and grants to combat the climate crisis, two major political priorities that Democrats are hoping to run on this fall.
For congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden, it would mark a welcome legislative bright spot.
An all-night vote-a-rama
After Saturday's vote, lawmakers began a lengthy series of votes on amendments to the bill, dubbed vote-a-rama, working through the night.
Under the reconciliation process, the minority party can offer unlimited amendments, and it typically takes the opportunity to propose politically contentious ideas designed to block the bill or, at minimum, force the majority to take politically unfavorable votes.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the process will be "like hell. They deserve this."
"I'm hoping that we can come up with proposals that will make sense to a few of them and they'll abandon this jihad they're on," he said Friday.
Republicans argue the bill will make inflation worse. "Democrats want to run through hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes and hundreds of billions of dollars in reckless spending," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday.
Declared dead several times over the past year, the Democrats' sweeping legislation was resurrected following secret talks between Schumer and the most conservative Senate Democrat, West Virginia's Joe Manchin.
Once Manchin and Schumer cut a deal on a plan, attention turned to another frequent outlier in the Democratic ranks, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who axed the bill's tightening of a carried interest tax loophole benefiting high-income investors and is expected to add new funding to fight drought, although those details are still undefined.
Cover photo: REUTERS