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Here's What to Watch as Senate Democrats Try to Pass Energy and Health Bill

 

 

August 2, 2022 - It's a make-or-break week for President Joe Biden's agenda.

The deal on energy and health care that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin announced last week has a narrow window to navigate both chambers of Congress and land on the President's desk before August recess.
And with the shock of the deal's announcement wearing off, GOP opposition, public scrutiny, and Democrats' slim majorities will all have a say in whether the legislation is a breakthrough or a bust.
Here's what you need to know.

What's in the bill?

The agreement contains a number of Democrats' goals, including some provisions that party leaders have worked toward for years:
  • Medicare drug price negotiation. The bill would empower Medicare to negotiate prices of certain costly medications administered in doctors' offices or purchased at the pharmacy.
  • Inflation cap. The legislation would also impose penalties on drug companies if they increase their prices faster than inflation.
  • Tax provisions: To boost revenue, the bill would impose a 15% minimum tax on corporations, which would raise $313 billion over a decade.
  • Climate provisions: The deal would be the biggest climate investment in US history. It would slash US greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, Schumer's office said.

What's not in the bill?

To be clear, this isn't Build Back Better 2.0. The package is less than half the size of Biden's original social safety net plan, and a number of key Democratic priorities are likely to be left out, including:
  • The creation of a universal pre-K program
  • An extension of the enhanced child tax credit
  • An expansion of Medicare benefits
  • The establishment of a federally funded paid family and sick leave program

What are Republicans saying?

The package, as it stands, is facing furious GOP opposition. Republican lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee released data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation that showed that Americans of all incomes would see their federal taxes rise under the climate and health care package.
That analysis, however, looked at the indirect effect of the 15% minimum tax provision on corporations. Economists assume companies would then pass along part of their tax increase to employees by reducing their after-tax wages and job opportunities.
Also, shareholders would take a hit since the value of their stock holdings, including those held in pensions and mutual funds, would likely decline.

What's Biden saying?

The President has urged congressional Democrats to quickly pass the surprise agreement "for America."
"This bill is far from perfect. It's a compromise. But it's often how progress is made, by compromises. The fact is that my message to Congress is this: This is the strongest bill you can pass to lower inflation, cut the deficit, reduce health care costs, tackle the climate crises and promote energy security -- all the time while reducing the burdens facing working-class and middle-class families," Biden said during a speech at the White House the day after the deal was announced.

What's the timeline?

The health and climate bill stands a serious chance of becoming law as soon as August, assuming it passes muster with the Senate parliamentarian to allow it to be approved along straight party lines in the budget process -- and all Democrats vote for it (more on that below) -- and that the House passes it.
Democrats need all 50 of their senators to be present and vote in favor of the bill with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, as all Republicans are expected to vote against the deal.
Manchin told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday he hopes the legislation passes before the August recess.
"I think it's a great piece of legislation and on normal times, my Republican colleagues would be for something such as this. We've basically paid down debt, (which) is what they want. We've accelerated permitting, which is what they want. And we've increased production of energy, which is what they want. We've done things that we should be doing together," Manchin said.

Will Democrats be united?

All eyes in Washington are on Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a key moderate, who has not yet weighed in on the bill.
She has previously raised concerns about taxes on carried interest, which would raise $14 billion under the deal. Sinema was not part of negotiations for the current package.
Asked about getting the support of his Arizona colleague, Manchin said on Sunday, "We work very close together on so many things, and she has so much in this piece of legislation. She's formed quite a bit of and worked on it very hard."
"I think that basically when she looks at the bill and sees the whole spectrum of what we're doing ... hopefully she will be positive about it, but she'll make her decision and I respect that," he added.

How did this come together?

Read this report from CNN's Capitol Hill team. The climate and tax deal came together in almost complete secret, catching many by surprise when it was announced.
Schumer and Manchin have been in revived talks since July 18 and locked down a deal last Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Manchin had thrown cold water on doing tax and energy provisions as part of the deal, but ultimately agreed to it.