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House passes sweeping climate and health care bill, sending it to Biden’s desk

The party-line vote delivers a major victory for congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden heading into the midterm elections.
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WASHINGTON — The House passed a far-reaching Democratic bill Friday to combat climate change, extend health care coverage and raise taxes on corporations, voting along party lines to send the legislation to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act represents a major victory for Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections, capping nearly a year of on-again, off-again internal negotiations and defying numerous near-death experiences for the bill.

The legislation — which passed the Senate on Sunday in a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — now goes to Biden, who plans to sign it into law next week.

“We’ve had a lot of achievements under President Biden: the rescue package and infrastructure bill and CHIPS and Science. It’s quite a collection. But this is remarkable,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC News on Friday. “This is a source of joy.”

The House vote was 220-207, breaking evenly along party lines as Democrats unified to support the bill while Republicans unanimously voted against it.

Biden chided Republicans for opposing the legislation in a video he tweeted after the vote.

“Today the American people won and the special interests lost, finally,” Biden said. “The Democrats sided with the American people and the Republicans sided with special interests. That’s the choice we face: whether we protect the already powerful or have the courage to build a future where everybody has an even shot.”

In the run-up to the vote, Pelosi highlighted four key provisions in the bill: empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices, extending Affordable Care Act funding for three years, enacting a series of energy and climate change provisions, and reducing the deficit.

The legislation would raise about $700 billion through corporate tax increases and prescription drug savings, and it would spend about $400 billion on clean energy and health care provisions.

It was a rare defeat for the pharmaceutical lobby on Capitol Hill. But other influential industries, like private equity, defeated some of the provisions that would have negatively affected them.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted that “the Inflation Reduction Act will endure as one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century.”

GOP hits 'half a trillion spending spree'

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pushed all Republicans to vote against the bill, calling it a “half a trillion spending spree that would raise taxes during a recession.”

“When this bill comes to the House, I urge everyone to vote No,” he said in a recent statement.

The package falls far short of what most Democrats had wanted, with safety net items stripped out by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and a slew of tax increases blocked by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. But privately, Pelosi's message to colleagues was: Judge the bill for what it does, not what it doesn't do. In the end, Democrats embraced it.

Moderate Democrats said it would cut costs on energy and health care, citing the deficit savings to argue it would reduce inflation.

"I think it is absolutely phenomenal for Ohio," said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who is running for Senate in a Republican-leaning state.

And progressives hailed the largest package in U.S. history to combat climate change, which addresses the issue through a slew of benefits for electric vehicles and clean energy products.

"In terms of climate, this is the most consequential piece of legislation we will pass," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the progressive caucus. "It is also the first time that we are at least getting a toe in the door of Big Pharma is price gouging."

At the same time, Jayapal said she is “heartbroken” that the measure excludes a host of other Democratic priorities, including guaranteed paid family leave, child care funding, child tax credit payments, universal pre-K and immigration relief.

Republicans have blasted the new taxes in the bill as well as the additional funding for IRS enforcement, warning it would lead to more audits. Democrats argue the legislation provides a mechanism to target sophisticated tax evaders and bolster refund processing and customer service for ordinary Americans.

Overshadowed by Trump?

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., lit into Democrats for focusing on climate change. “There is no climate crisis,” he said in an impassioned floor speech. “It is a hoax.”

Some Republicans did see a silver lining: The Democratic bill preserves most of the Republican tax cuts of 2017, largely at the insistence of Sinema, who objected to any rate increases.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, an author of the 2017 law, said it is “largely protected” in the new Democratic bill, although he said the 15% corporate minimum tax would be damaging. “Yes, a large part of the Republican tax cuts — the Trump tax cuts — are in place.”

The vote came at a time when much of the national spotlight was seized by the fallout over a recent FBI search of former President Donald Trump's property Mar-a-Lago.

It was a source of frustration for some Democrats, who had preferred to spend this week boasting about the bill.

"I don't think it'll be overshadowed by Trump. But Trump is like a planetary object that has its own gravity, and that certainly pulls in a lot of the public attention," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Democrats said the bill was more important.

"The news and the history books often don't rhyme. And I think when people look back at this period, they'll write more — much more — about the largest climate investment that the country has ever made than anything else," said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the Democrats' congressional campaign arm, said inflation reduction "can't happen soon enough" and that Americans are more attuned to their lives.

"I think my voters care a lot more about what's in their paycheck than what's in Trump's basement," he said.