US Senate Democrats await green light for $430 billion drug and climate bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Democrats on Monday expected a ruling from a House arbitrator this week on whether they can override the legislature’s normal rules to pass a $430 billion drug, energy and tax bill. dollars over Republican objections.

The decision of the arbitrator, officially known as the “parliamentarian”, will have a profound impact on President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda heading into the midterm elections on November 8, when Republicans are the favorites to regain control of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate amid voter discontent over inflation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed Monday that he planned to start the debate this week.

Under the “reconciliation” procedure that Democrats hope to use to pass the bill, only a simple majority vote in the 100-member house would be needed to push the bill through, rather than the 60 needed to pass the bill. most laws.

With the Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the process would allow passage, as Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris could break any tied votes and secure a win for Biden.

The bill being reviewed by the Senate MP was crafted by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has often stood in the way of Biden’s key priorities, and with the blessing of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. .

However, it remains unknown whether Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema, like Manchin, a maverick in the caucus, will lend her support.

A Sinema spokesman said it was still reviewing the bill and would also wait to see what provisions, if any, the parliamentarian allows to remain in the bill.

Without Sinema’s vote, the entire effort could be doomed, as Republicans were not expected to vote for what Democrats are calling the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”

It would provide new federal funding for a significant reduction in US carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change and allow Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, to negotiate lower pharmaceutical prices. Tax increases targeted at the wealthy would partially offset costs, and lower drug prices would also save the government money, supporters of the bill say.

But Republicans have been attacking the measure, arguing that it will violate Biden’s promise not to raise taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year. Senator Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, criticized the bill by publishing an analysis he requested from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), a nonpartisan congressional panel.

The JCT report said the bill’s tax provisions would indirectly increase the effective tax burden on Americans with incomes of $200,000 or less by $16.7 billion in 2023.

The tax burden effect in JCT’s analysis is due to the small estimated reductions in income from potential pay cuts that could result from higher tax bills from companies, or lower stock values, Kimberly said. Clausing, a professor of tax law at the University of California-Los Angeles and a former US Treasury tax official.

The legislation would increase the tax burden by another $14.1 billion for taxpayers with annual income between $200,000 and $500,000, according to the JCT analysis.

Democrats on the finance committee, which oversees fiscal policy, say the analysis is “incomplete.”

“A family making less than $400,000 will not pay a dime in additional taxes,” Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “It doesn’t include the benefits to middle-class families of making health insurance premiums and prescription drugs more affordable. The same goes for clean energy incentives for families.”

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, David Morgan, and David Lawder; Editing by Scott Malone and Aurora Ellis)

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