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US Congress passes Biden’s landmark climate, tax and health care plan

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U.S. lawmakers on Friday passed President Joe Biden’s comprehensive climate, tax and health care plan — a major victory for the veteran Democrat, including the largest-ever U.S. investment in the fight against global warming.

Passage in the House of Representatives along strict party lines came after the Senate passed the bill by a razor-thin margin, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the casting vote.

Biden was quick to praise the approval of his plan, which includes a $370 billion investment aimed at a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.


“Today the American people won. Special interests lost,” the president tweeted in the minutes after the vote.

“With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the House, families will see lower prescription drug prices, lower health care costs and lower energy costs. I look forward to signing it into law next week.”

The vote is a clear victory for Biden on one of his top policy priorities, less than three months before November’s pivotal midterm elections, with his Democratic Party’s control of Congress poised.

It should also help restore some semblance of American leadership in the fight to cut carbon emissions.

In her final comments before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the legislation “a robust cost-cutting package that meets the needs of the moment that ensures our families thrive and our planet survives.”

The package includes the largest-ever commitment to combating climate change by the world’s largest economy, which is also one of the world’s worst polluters.

Climate activists rejoiced after the 220-207 vote, which gained the support of all Democrats, even progressives who had complained that it didn’t go far enough.

Union of Concerned Scientists president Johanna Chao Kreilick called the legislation “a game changer and cause for hope”.

The so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” would also provide $64 billion for health care initiatives and lower costs for some drugs, which can be 10 times more expensive in the United States than in some other rich countries.

Conservative lawmakers have criticized the bill as wasteful spending, and no Republican lawmakers have supported it.

“Democrats are pushing Congress through a bill that spends hundreds of billions of dollars our country doesn’t have on far-left policies our country can’t afford,” Republican lawmaker Lee Zeldin tweeted.

Tax credits for clean energy

Rather than trying to punish the biggest polluters in corporate America, the bill instead proposes a series of financial incentives aimed at moving the country away from fossil fuels.

It would give Americans a tax break of up to $7,500 when they buy an electric car, plus a 30 percent discount when they install solar panels on their roofs.

The legislation would also raise millions for the protection and conservation of forests, which have been devastated in recent years by wildfires during record heat waves that scientists believe are linked to global warming.

Billions of dollars in tax credits would also go to some of the country’s most polluting industries to aid their transition to greener methods — a move fiercely opposed by progressive Democrats, who have however accepted it as the best option after months of inactivity and frustration.

But long ago, they had to give up their aspirations for free kindergarten and community schools and comprehensive health care for the elderly.

Corporation tax

Biden came to power with promises of sweeping reforms, but has repeatedly seen his hopes shattered, revived, and grounded again.

The 50-50 Senate split, with Harris as the tie-breaker, has effectively vetoed moderates like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who used that power to block Biden’s much more elaborate Build Back Better plan.

But in late July, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer managed to compromise with Manchin, whose economy relies heavily on mining.

To help offset the plan’s massive spending, it would cut the U.S. deficit through a new 15 percent minimum tax on companies with profits of $1 billion or more — a measure targeting some who now pay much less.

By some estimates, that measure could bring in more than $258 billion in tax revenue for the government over the next 10 years.

(AFP)

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