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Biden hails ‘giant step forward’ as Democrats revive bill on climate, economy

2022 07 28T170440Z 1899067442 RC25LV9VUZ7A RTRMADP 3 USA BIDEN

President Joe Biden Thursday praised a burgeoning Democratic package of climate, health care and tax initiatives as “a giant step forward” for the country as congressional leaders began rallying votes for a campaign-season bill they passed as a boon to voters with inflation.

A day after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Conservative Senator Joe Manchin stunned Washington by resurrecting parts of a compromise many believed dead, the first signs were encouraging for the party.

After Schumer briefed Democratic senators about the 725-page measure, Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the response from lawmakers was “uniformly positive.” And Representatives Tom Suozzi, DN.Y., and Tom Malinowski, DN.J., suggested they could support the measure, even though it lacks higher federal tax deductions for state and local taxes they’ve defended in the past.

“We are taking a giant step forward as a nation,” Biden said at the White House. In a message to lawmakers, he called it a compromise that was “the strongest bill you can pass” to tackle health care, climate, energy and living costs for families. “Pass it on, pass it on for the American people.”

The measure’s phoenix-like revival came on Wednesday, when Manchin unexpectedly agreed to add tax, energy and environmental provisions to a plan he had previously said he wanted to limit to prescription drug pricing for now. and health care assistance. He told reporters on Thursday that his talks with Schumer had continued and disputed that he had reversed himself.

“I’ve never turned around in my life and I’ve never run away,” Manchin, who has COVID-19 and has stayed away from the Capitol, said in a conference call. He also described what he said he endured over the past year, when he repeatedly forced Biden and top Democrats to cut the initial $3.5 trillion proposal.

“No one in their right mind would endure all the protests and bullying” he faced, Manchin said, after sinking a roughly $2 trillion version the House passed after pushing for budget cuts. He said Democrats “let the dog loose” on him two weeks ago after telling Schumer he wanted a move this month limited to health care due to inflation fears.

He said he now supported the expanded bill “because I know I’m not adding to inflation” with the agreement. And he acknowledged that he wants the Mountain Valley pipeline, which will deliver natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia, at the “top of the heap” under the permitting processes Biden and congressional leaders have promised to pass through Congress this fall.

Most important voices still in doubt

Loose ends remain in a 50-50 Senate where support from every Democrat — plus the casting vote of Vice President Kamala Harris — is needed to overcome the unanimous Republican opposition that seems destined. sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who joined Manchin last year to force cuts and changes to larger versions of the plan, declined to tell reporters her stance.

In the narrowly divided House, Democrats cannot lose more than four votes and win. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of the centrist House Blue Dog Coalition, said she would not comment on her views yet. “I don’t think anyone is thrilled about it,” said Maryland Democratic leader Steny Hoyer. “But I think the vast majority think that the things in there are good things.”

Overall, the emerging package would raise $739 billion in a decade by raising taxes on large corporations and hedge fund owners, boosting tax collections from the IRS, and cutting federal costs by lowering pharmaceutical prices. It would spend $369 billion on energy and climate change initiatives, what analysts and environmentalists called the largest-ever federal investment in clean energy. Another $64 billion would be to extend health insurance subsidies for three years, leaving $306 billion for a modest swipe at massive federal deficits.

The measure is clearly less ambitious than the $3.5 trillion version that stumbled, shrank and eventually died in Congress last year, largely as a result of Manchin’s opposition. The new bill misses many of the party’s original goals, including funds for a more generous child tax credit, paid family leave, expanded Medicare benefits, and health care for poor families in the dozens of states — mostly Republican and in the South — that have refused to pay. expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health law.

‘Better than nothing’

Still, the surprising agreement puts Biden and Democrats on the brink of claiming victory over top priorities, such as tackling global warming and easing consumer health care costs, and raising taxes on health care costs. wealthy people to pay for it.

“It’s bigger than nothing,” said D-Wis Representative Mark Pocan, who fought unsuccessfully with other progressives last year against Manchin’s attempts to shorten the proposal. After Manchin prevailed, “A lot of us thought this was going to be done unless we had more Senate seats, and the fact that we can still get something pretty substantial done is impressive.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., one of his party’s more conservative lawmakers, called prescription drug regulations “the most important piece of legislation we will vote on in this Congress,” alongside last fall’s infrastructure measure.

When leaders sold the plan to their members, the government reported that the economy had collapsed for the second consecutive quarter. Concerns that a recession was imminent only increased concerns about the country’s worst inflation since the 1980s.

Both parties know that inflation and economic fear are of paramount importance to voters. Expecting Republicans to gain control of the House and perhaps the Senate, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, turned his fire on the Democrats’ moves.

Our colleagues across the aisle have already completely lost American confidence in the economy before this reckless tax and spending surge. Apparently they want to see how much further they can fall,” he said.

The bill would create tax credits for low- and middle-income electric vehicle buyers, plus subsidies and tax breaks to boost clean energy technology and reduce carbon emissions.

Medicare would begin negotiating the drugs it buys, prescription price increases would be limited, and Medicare beneficiaries’ own drug costs would be capped at $2,000 per year.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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