Senate Democrats reject $430 billion climate amendments and RX drug bill

The U.S. Senate on Sunday pushed back attempts to amend a $430 billion measure sought by President Joe Biden, as Democrats continued efforts to pass a bill aimed at controlling climate change and slashing climate change. prescription drug costs for seniors.

Senators, working over the weekend to pass a bill central to Biden’s national agenda, worked through the morning in hopes of getting the bill passed before beginning a recess in August. The bill also aims to strengthen enforcement of corporate and wealthy tax payments.

“Now is the time to move forward with a big, bold package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the start of the debate on Saturday night.

He said the legislation contains “the boldest clean energy package in American history” to tackle climate change while lowering the costs of using certain drugs and energy.

Democrats have drawn fierce attacks from Republicans over the $430 billion in new spending and more than $740 billion in new revenue.

Nonetheless, Democrats said their bill has broad support among voters. They hope its passage in the Senate and House of Representatives by the end of next week will help Democratic candidates in the November 8 midterm elections at a time when Biden, their party leader, is suffering from a anemic public approval rating.

Democrats are in a battle to retain their tight control of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Senator Chuck Schumer said the bill contains the “boldest clean energy package in American history.”

After spending several hours on Saturday debating the bill, senators embarked on a “vote-a-rama” in which Democratic and Republican amendments were rushed through.

Democrats hope to pass the bill with just a simple majority in a process called “reconciliation,” bypassing a filibuster rule requiring 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to advance most legislation. This will allow Democrats to override Republican objections.

But they were unable to muster the votes needed to keep a provision to cap soaring insulin costs at $35 a month in the private health insurance market, which broke the rules. of reconciliation. The proposal failed by three votes, despite the support of seven Republicans. Democrats said the legislation would still cap insulin costs for people on Medicare.

Democrats also rejected a Republican amendment to cut insulin costs that would have dramatically changed the legislation and risked unraveling their coalition of 50 senators needed to keep the legislation on track.

Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders failed to introduce an amendment that would have expanded the number of drugs eligible for price negotiation under Medicare.

Republicans forced votes on immigration amendments, including one to incentivize the hiring of more Border Patrol agents while cutting other spending.

Another Republican proposal would have enshrined in law a Trump administration policy stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that effectively shut down the US asylum system. The Biden administration fought legally to replace the “Title 42” policy with what it described as a more humane and orderly system for migrants crossing the southwestern border with Mexico.

Although the Title 42 amendment was defeated by a 50-50 vote, it is likely to become a campaign issue ahead of the November election, forcing vulnerable Democratic senators from border states, like Mark Kelly in Arizona, to defend their opposition.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a former Democratic-aligned presidential candidate, was broadly defeated on the proposed First Amendment. This would have dramatically increased the number of prescription drugs eligible for price negotiation under the government’s health insurance scheme for the elderly.

The 99-1 vote against the amendment only drew support from Sanders.

Senator Patrick Leahy is led to an elevator from the Senate floor during the so-called vote-a-rama session.
Senator Patrick Leahy is led to an elevator from the Senate floor during the so-called vote-a-rama session.

The Senate also overwhelmingly rejected a bid by Sanders to expand Medicare coverage for eyeglasses, hearing aids and dental care.

This sweeping medical part of the bill, negotiated over several months by Democrats, would allow Medicare to begin negotiating in 2026 with the pharmaceutical industry on prices for a limited number of prescription drugs to reduce costs. . It would also impose a cap of $2,000 per year on out-of-pocket drug costs under a Medicare drug program.

Other parts of the bill would reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 through federal incentives for the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles and other “green” energy, with the goal of drive down energy prices overall at a time of high inflation.

The Senate also quickly rejected Republican amendments to reduce a proposed new tax on oil refiners to help pay for the cleanup of toxic waste spills and another to immediately expand federal leasing of onshore oil drilling projects.

“Instead of begging dictators in other countries to increase oil and gas production, we should increase American production,” Republican Senator John Barrasso argued unsuccessfully.

The 755-page bill includes a minimum 15% corporate tax and closing loopholes the wealthy can use to avoid paying taxes. It would also fund the hiring of more IRS workers to better enforce tax payments and impose a new excise tax on stock buybacks.

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