“The yeas are 50, the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the Vice President votes in the affirmative and the bill as amended is passed.”
~ V.P. Kamala Harris casting the tie breaking vote on H.R 5376 the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
Whew! Call it ‘ground breaking law making.’ Call it a ‘landmark piece of legislation.’ Call it a ‘minor miracle’ in an era of polarized and grid locked politics. It is all of that, and more – or less (depending on how you view the glass).
After over a year’s worth of road blocks and forays into dead end streets, a legislative anomaly occurred yesterday as a partisan political marathon ended in an all night sprint to the finish line in the Senate chambers atop Capitol Hill. The Biden administration’s dead-on-arrival ‘Build Back Better’ plan was surprisingly resuscitated, deconstructed and reconstructed and then given a name change apparently more pleasing to Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema. And so it is that after defying all Republican odds and two Democratic Senatorial foot-draggers, the national Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) is now ready to become law once passed by the Democratic majority House of Representatives.
Let’s be clear; it’s not anywhere near as ambitious as the aspirational Build Back Better plan envisioned by the Biden administration. But given the political realities of today’s governance, it is far better than the ‘nothing’ that a fractured Congress has given us as of late. It is, in fact, the most magnanimous piece of legislation to grace this country in decades. In a nutshell, this is what the IRA calls for in the arenas of climate/energy, healthcare, taxation and debt reduction:
- $369B for climate and energy investments including $60B for disadvantaged areas affected by climate change, nearly $400B in tax credits for electric vehicles and utilities along with tax credits for heat pumps, rooftop solar, electric HVAC and water heaters. And it requires oil and gas companies to pay fees for methane leaks.
- More than $8B for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $6.75B for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, $3.25B for the Conservation Stewardship Program, and $1.4B for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
- Allows Medicare to negotiate drug pricing.
- Imposes 15% minimum tax on corporations.
- Establishes $300B for deficit reduction.
Republicans did wring out one concession as 43 Senators, including both NC Senators (Burr and Tillis), blocked a cap on insulin costs for millions of diabetics.
On the climate/global warming front, the bill could cut GHG emissions by approximately 40-50% from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. With news broadcasts leading off with stories of climate related disasters (floods, droughts, wildfires and extreme heat) across America and the world night after night, that is a worthy goal, and along with the other provisions in the bill we should be grateful that this moves the needle in the right direction. Or in other words in the language of this blog, climate and social justice advocates and activists can rejoice in the hope that it can incrementally bend that long arc of the moral universe in the direction of justice for all.
That being said, while this is truly a milestone deserving of a significant place in American political history, it still falls far short of the urgency and scope of change that is needed to salvage a healthy and thriving planet and society. Creation justice lost some valuable ground on vital concessions extracted by the friend of the fossil fuel industry, Senator Manchin. The emaciated version of Build Back Better is better than nothing, but unless it is embraced by all citizens of all persuasions and backed by the power brokers that pull the strings of government and grease the machinery of the economy it will be yet one more chapter in the story of ‘too little, too late.” May that not be so!
I’ll close with the official statement of support for H.R. 5376 from the Executive Office of the President – Office of Management and Budget August 6, 2022
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 5376 – Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
The Administration strongly supports passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This legislation would lower health care, prescription drug, and energy costs, invest in energy security, and make our tax code fairer—all while fighting inflation and reducing the deficit.
This historic legislation would help tackle today’s most pressing economic challenges, make our economy stronger for decades to come, and position the United States to be the world’s leader in clean energy.
The bill would lower the costs of prescription drugs for millions of Americans and reduce federal spending on prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices.
And, the bill would lower health care costs for millions of Americans – locking in health care premiums that save 13 million people an average of $800 a year.
This bill would make the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, securing America’s position as a world leader in domestic clean energy manufacturing and supply chains, creating and sustaining good-paying union jobs in construction and manufacturing, including in rural communities, and lowering energy costs for Americans.
Finally, the bill would require that the largest and most profitable companies pay at least some Federal income tax, with no tax increases for anyone making under $400,000 a year.
In all, the bill would reduce the deficit by more than $300 billion, including near-term deficit reduction that, according to a range of economic experts, would also reduce near-term inflation.
In addition, lower costs for prescription drugs, health care, and energy would help reduce inflation, while giving American families more breathing room.
The Administration urges Congress to pass the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. We look forward to working with Congress to deliver this critical victory for American workers and families, as well as the U.S. economy.