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Sweeping budget package passes Senate; House will take up measure Friday

Lindsey McPherson and Laura Weiss, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — After a year of negotiations, impasses and political maneuvering, the Senate passed Democrats’ top domestic priority: an economic package that would pump hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy programs, raise taxes on corporations and lower health care costs.

The Senate voted 50-50 along party lines and Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to send the measure to the House, which is planning to return briefly from August recess to take it up Friday.

Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to avoid the need for 60 votes to clear a Republican filibuster. But even a simple majority vote required unanimity in the Democratic caucus, which they’d been unable to achieve until this month.

Before final passage, the Senate spent more than 15 hours voting on amendments and dilatory motions during a free-for-all process known as “vote-a-rama.” There were a total of 37 votes along the way before final passage.

An official Congressional Budget Office “score” wasn’t yet available. But based on preliminary information and previous estimates, the bill would spend more than $450 billion over 10 years on energy and climate programs and tax breaks, a three-year extension of more generous subsidies for purchasing health insurance on public exchanges, expanded Medicare prescription drug benefits and caps on monthly insulin copays.

The package would be more than offset through tax increases on corporations, enhanced IRS tax enforcement, Medicare savings from allowing price negotiations directly with pharmaceutical companies on certain drugs and new taxes and fees on oil and gas companies. On net, the package is expected to reduce deficits by roughly $300 billion over a decade.

 

Deficit reduction was a major priority for Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., who opposed the much larger reconciliation package the House passed last year. That measure would spend and raise roughly $2 trillion over a decade, leaving little guaranteed money for deficit reduction.

Negotiation roller coaster

After Manchin effectively killed the House version of the bill in December, negotiations stalled for months until he and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., began private talks this spring on a downsized package.

Manchin identified three goals he was willing to pursue in those negotiations: lowering prescription drug costs; shoring up fossil fuels in the short term and transitioning to more clean energy sources in the long term; and restoring fairness to the tax code.

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