House Democrats Pass Spending Bill in Latest Victory for Biden
By Kaia Hubbard
House Democrats voted Friday to pass a landmark climate, health care and tax bill that is set to deliver on years-long Democratic Party promises in a major turnaround after the legislation seemed doomed just weeks ago.
“Today is really a glorious day for us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Friday. “We send to the president’s desk a monumental bill that will be truly for the people – the Inflation Reduction Act.”
Returning briefly from their August recess to take up the bill, lawmakers In a 220-207 vote along party lines signed off on the legislation after debate that exceeded its three-hour allotted time on Friday. The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law in a matter of days.
The $740 billion bill, which is the centerpiece of Biden’s economic agenda and is expected to raise enough money to pay for itself, includes provisions to tackle prescription drug prices, energy costs and corporate taxes and would mark a historic investment in climate protections, with a goal of reducing emissions 40% by 2030.
“It’s a kitchen-table issue,” Pelosi said, pointing to how it enables negotiating prescription drug prices with Medicare, locks in lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act and creates millions of “good-paying jobs,” in addition to cutting energy costs and reducing the deficit.
Even so, it’s much narrower than a similar – but even more ambitious – measure that the House approved last year. That reality threatened to spell trouble for Democrats as they voted on the pared-down version of the spending package, with progressives expressing frustration over its scope. But on Friday, Democrats voted as a bloc, while some committed to addressing the bill’s shortcomings at a later date.
Indeed, the legislation’s course in the House was relatively simple – passing without much friction or fanfare on Friday, as opposed to the long and hard-fought path it took in the Senate.
Just weeks ago, Democrats’ ambitions on the legislation appeared all but dead, after Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he would not support the climate change components of the bill. But in a surprise reversal after months of negotiations, Manchin struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York late last month to move the package forward.
With only a matter of days before the chamber was slated to begin its August recess, the race was on to finalize the legislation and garner the support of the remaining holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The Arizona Democrat for a week kept Washington wondering as she remained silent on the bill. But as the clock ticked on the legislation, Sinema signaled her support in the nick of time.
With the support of Manchin and Sinema, the stars had aligned for Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate, giving each Democratic lawmaker the power to make or break the high-stakes legislation. They were critical to passing the bill that gives Democrats a boost heading into midterm elections just three months away in which control of both congressional chambers will be at stake.
Like Senate Republicans, GOP lawmakers in the House were critical of the legislation, saying that it will raise inflation and make Americans’ economic fortunes even worse.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado called the legislation a “con game” and its supporters “insane.”
“Remember that so-called Bipartisan Infrastructure bill?,” Boebert said. “I guess that was just a down-payment on this never-ending theft of American tax dollars. You are sacrificing American families at the altar of climate change.”
Republicans also pointed repeatedly to the legislation’s increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service, reiterating a claim that the bill would roll out more than 80,000 IRS agents to audit average Americans.
But Democrats pushed back on those claims, pointing toward the bigger picture and touting the legislation as a win for the American people over special interest groups, especially with its health care components.
“We have been trying for decades to prevail – to win legislation that enabled the secretary to negotiate for lower prices,” Pelosi said. “Big Pharma has had a stranglehold on the Congress so we couldn’t get it done until now.”
Pelosi’s comments are in line with new messaging the White House shared on Thursday, which looks to leverage congressional Democrats’ success on the legislation into midterm gains.
A White House memo on the president’s upcoming messaging strategy suggested that, with the legislation, Democrats prevailed over special interest groups like Big Pharma, which has previously blocked action to cut prescription drug prices, along with big corporations that have dodged paying taxes. It also paints congressional Republicans, who attempted to block the legislation’s passage, as “siding with special interests and the super-wealthy.”
Biden and his team intend to travel across the country following the bill signing touting the new message, with the Inflation Reduction Act at the helm, in an apparent effort to change the inflation narrative that has for months weighed most heavily on Americans and been touted most prominently by Republicans as both parties attempt to gain the support of working-class voters in the upcoming midterms.
“This is the choice before the American people,” the memo says. “President Biden and Congressional Democrats taking on special interests for you and your family. Or Congressional Republicans’ extreme, MAGA agenda that serves the wealthiest, corporations and themselves.”