US Senate democrats on Saturday was set to push a bill that would address key elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda, tackling climate change, lowering the cost of energy and seniors’ drugs and forcing the wealthy to pay more taxes.
A Senate rulemaker determined that the bulk of the $430 billion bill could only pass with a simple majority, bypassing a filibuster rule that requires 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to advance most legislation and does so possible for Democrats to pass it over Republican objections, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Democrats hope the legislation will give their candidates a boost in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, where Biden’s party is in an uphill battle to maintain its narrow control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Democrats have received extremely good news,” Schumer said in the statement. “Medicare is finally allowed to negotiate drug prices … This is a major victory for the American people.”
Medicare is the public health insurance program for people age 65 and older.
There are three main parts to the bill: a 15% minimum tax on corporations, stricter enforcement by the IRS, and a new excise tax on stock buybacks. The legislation has $430 billion in new spending, along with raising more than $740 billion in new revenue.
In addition to billions of dollars to promote the production and purchase of more electric vehicles and promote clean energy, the bill would put $4 billion in new federal drought relief funds. The latter is a move that could help the re-election campaigns of Democratic senators Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Mark Kelly of Arizona.
Republicans have vowed to do everything they can to stop or block the bill, with Sen. Lindsey Graham on Friday calling the legislation “this jihad they’re going to tax and spend.”
Democrats aim to push the bill through the Senate using a mysterious and complicated “reconciliation” procedure that allows passage without any Republican support in the 50-50 chamber, with Democrats in control because Kamala Harris, the vice president, can cast a tie-breaking vote.
A provision that was cut from the bill would have forced drug companies to refund money to both public and private health plans if drug prices rise faster than inflation. The Senate judge, known as the parliamentarian, ruled that the measure could not apply to private industry.
Saturday begins an arduous process that could stretch into early next week, with senators offering amendment after amendment in a time-consuming “vote-a-rama.”
Senators on the left like Bernie Sanders are likely to try to expand the scope of the bill to include new programs such as federal subsidies for child care or home care for the elderly. Republicans have signaled they will offer plenty of amendments that touch on another issue: immigrants crossing the US border into Mexico.