Congress passes historic inflation, climate bill

Immediately after Congress passed a historic inflation bill, Rep. Al Lawson touted its benefits for his constituents.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior
National Correspondent

House members returned to the U.S. Capitol on Friday and, after some debate, passed the Inflation Reduction Act, major legislation that the Biden-Harris administration said would lower health-care costs, fight climate change, raise taxes on some large companies and reduce the deficit.

It’s expected that President Joe Biden will sign the bill, keeping alive an impressive string of legislative victories Democrats hope will translate into big midterm wins.

“This life-changing legislation increases the leverage of the people’s interest over the special interest,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Earlier in the week, Senate Democrats passed the measure along party lines with a 51-50 vote, Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding ballot.

Democrats said the bill marked a critical step toward reducing inflation and the cost of living. They said the measure locks in savings on health insurance premiums and reduces the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices. 

“The high cost of food, gas, and other essential items such as prescription drugs continue to place Floridians and other Americans in tough predicaments where they may have to pick which items their households can afford and that is just wrong,” said North Florida Representative Al Lawson in a statement. “The IRA is designed to lessen that burden for American families.

“Additionally, this measure is fully paid for by requiring the biggest corporations and the ultra-wealthy citizens pay their fair share in taxes. There are no new taxes on families making $400,000 or less and no new taxes on small businesses.”

Biden has said the measure should also lead to creating family-sustaining jobs and cutting energy costs by making the most significant investment in history in combating climate change.

The country will pay the bill’s $739-plus billion price tag by making corporations pay their fair share. However, those earning less than $400,000 annually won’t experience a tax hike.

“I’m thrilled we were finally able to pass this historic, once-in-a-generation investment in our country’s future that will lower costs for Georgians, create clean energy jobs and reduce the deficit all at the same time,” said Georgia Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock. “I’m especially proud the legislation includes two provisions I introduced to cap insulin costs for Medicare patients at $35 a month and to limit the cost of prescription drugs for seniors.”

Warnock said the legislation would make a real change in people’s lives, while economists believe the Inflation Reduction Act would save American households thousands of dollars.

“This bill will reduce the cost of prescription drugs, make health insurance more affordable, cap out-of-pocket costs, reduce your energy bill, reduce the federal deficit, and bring down inflation,” Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings said.

The measure builds on work Demings did in the House to allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, bring down energy costs, and create significant new jobs by fighting climate change.

“Senate Republicans tried and failed to block this legislation because it takes on their biggest backers: prescription drug companies, fossil fuel companies, and billionaire tax cheats,” Demings said. “I’m going to put Florida families first and support policies to bring down costs for working people even if it cuts into the profit margins of these special interests.”

Senate Republicans, all of whom opposed the package, lashed out.

“This is not about inflation reduction. This is all about Democrats spending on things they want to spend money on,” Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said. “It’s another taxing and spending bill.” 

Also, some have noted that the plan originally contained universal pre-kindergarten, lower childcare costs, paid family and sick leave and the enhanced child tax credit, and other provisions.

Those provisions were ultimately eliminated during negotiations.

Data from the Congressional Budget Office and Congressional Research Reports as cited by CNN suggested that those cuts counted as the ninth time in just two and a half years where proposed legislation to help women and families had been removed.

Paid family leave alone has been trimmed down or dropped five different times since March 2020, CNN reported.

According to a 2021 UNICEF report on national childcare policies, “The United States is the only rich country without nationwide, statutory, paid maternity leave, paternity leave or parental leave.”

Still, Biden and Democrats savored the legislative victory.

The president said he ran for office promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does.

“This bill caps seniors’ out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs at $2,000 per year – no matter what their drug bills would otherwise be, seniors will not have to spend more than $2,000,” Biden stated. “Additionally, 13 million Americans, covered under the Affordable Care Act, will see their health insurance premiums reduced by $800.

“This bill tackles inflation by lowering the deficit and lowering costs for regular families. This bill also makes the largest investment ever in combating the existential crisis of climate change.”

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