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Senate Democrats pass sweeping health care, tax and climate bill

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Sunday passed a sweeping health care, tax and climate change bill that will allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs — a significant political win as the party tries to send a message before the midterm election that it is delivering on its promises.

The drug price plan is the centerpiece of the Democrats’ bill, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The measure would also establish incentives to combat the climate crisis, impose new taxes on corporations and provide $4 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation to combat drought in the West — a last-minute addition.

The bill, approved via a fast-track legislative procedure that didn’t allow for a Republican filibuster, passed on a 50-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

No Republicans supported the bill. It will now go before the House, where a vote is expected Friday.

Before passage, senators slogged through dozens of unsuccessful votes on amendments put forward mainly by Republicans to try to stop the bill or at least make it politically difficult for Democrats.

Republicans succeeded in killing one provision that violated Senate budget rules. It would have capped the price of insulin at $35 a month in the private insurance market.

 

President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats sorely need the legislative victory as they head toward the midterm elections, which traditionally favor the party out of power.

The package comes at the end of a remarkably productive sprint for the closely divided Senate. In recent weeks, the chamber has voted for a bipartisan gun bill, a boost for semiconductor manufacturing and aid for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

The Medicare drug negotiation policy — which Democrats have been pushing for nearly two decades — would mark a significant accomplishment that is likely to be popular with voters who are eager to go after drugmakers.

It amounts to the most substantial change in health care policy since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. But it will initially have a limited impact on the pocketbooks of the nearly 64 million seniors in Medicare.

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