The Senate parliamentarian has left Democrats’ massive climate, health care and tax legislation largely intact, clearing the way for the spending bill to be taken up by lawmakers Saturday after the support of the final Democratic holdouts was secured.
“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said of the parliamentarian’s decision to allow a portion of the legislation – which allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices – to proceed.
The parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has been weighing the components of the final bill to see if it is in compliance with the procedural maneuver called reconciliation that allows passage of certain budget-related legislation on a simple majority rather than the 60 votes ordinarily required to end debate.
MacDonough decided that a provision that would force drugmakers to pay rebates if their prices rose above inflation must be removed. But she ruled that the clean energy tax portion of the bill could move forward, Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee announced.
Now, Democrats are preparing to vote on a motion to proceed to the reconciliation legislation in a rare weekend session slated for Saturday afternoon as plans that would deliver on years-long party promises are falling into place.
The anticipation appears to have spread to the other chamber as well, as the House is set to reconvene from its August recess next Friday to take up the bill, pending Senate passage.
With a newly minted agreement from the remaining Democratic holdout Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Schumer said he expects the bill will “receive the entire support of the Democratic caucus.”
But the deal with Sinema, who announced her support for a revised version of the legislation after more than a week of silence following a surprise deal between Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Schumer that revived the package, did not leave the legislation intact.
As was expected, Sinema would not move forward without nixing the provision on the carried interest tax – which allows investment managers to pay a lower tax rate on their income.
“Sen. Sinema said she would not vote for the bill – not even move to proceed – unless we took it out,” Schumer said on Friday of the tax provision. “So we had no choice.”
In the most recent agreement, Schumer said the senators also added in an excise tax on stock buybacks that will bring in $74 billion. A group of Senators also announced on Friday that $4 billion in drought will be added to the bill as well.
“Make no mistake – the agreement preserves the core components of the Inflation Reduction Act,” Schumer said, adding that Democrats are now “one step closer to enacting this historic legislation into law.”
But Republicans do not appear intent on letting the bill pass without a fight.
After the initial vote to proceed with the legislation on Saturday, senators are likely in for a long night of debate – up to 20 hours – ahead of voting on a slew of amendments in what’s called a “vote-a-rama” that Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Friday will “be like hell.”
The amendments are expected to come primarily from Republicans, and Graham said he’s hopeful Democrats will be intrigued by the proposals, causing them to abandon their original course.
“These votes are going to be hard votes for the Democrats,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said on Friday of the upcoming votes on amendments.
Since Manchin last week announced his support for the revived legislation, Republicans have questioned whether the Inflation Reduction Act lives up to its name, arguing that it raises inflation or taxes, while making the economic situation generally worse.
Schumer said on Friday that Republicans are “scraping the bottom of the barrel for justification to oppose this bill.”
“They can’t even seem to lay a glove on this,” Schumer said. “They don’t know what to do.”