Democrats buckle up for GOP attempts to scuttle climate, tax and health care bill

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The vote-a-rama came hours after all 50 Democrats voted to begin debate on the package, with Senate Republicans unanimously opposed. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie after voting was open for more than two hours.

Earlier in the day, most of the party line proposals survived the tests that determined what could stay in the legislation without subjecting it to filibuster. Medicare parts of its prescription drug reform plan could still be included, the Senate congressman said, while Democrats lost ground on a separate pillar that would have penalized drug companies for raising people’s prices with private health insurance. And the tax and environmental provisions of the legislation also moved forward unscathed, meaning the bill’s guts remained intact.

“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as he kicked off the roll-call votes. He called it “the cornerstone of one of the most productive stages the Senate has seen in a very long time.”

Just two weeks ago, Democrats expected to pass a narrower health care bill aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs and expanding Affordable Care Act subsidies. But Manchin and Schumer then revealed a new deal that revived proposals to expend a lot of energy and raise taxes on big business.

Once the Senate completes the vote-a-rama, the chamber will pass the bill and send it to the House, which is due to consider the bill on Friday.

“We have to keep the deal intact and not let the Republicans take us. Democrats understand that and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). ‘Achieving that is with Democratic votes, we can’t afford to lose anyone and what that means, we’re in this boat together.’

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he “will vote NO on all amendments, even on things I like” and was joined by several other Democrats in that vow.

But it’s not just Republicans who should try to change the bill.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he wants to propose amendments to expand the child tax credit, target fossil fuel companies and expand Medicare benefits and the extent of price reform medicines, saying on Saturday that “there is no one who can deny that this legislation does not solve the major crises facing working families. Even before the voting marathon kicked off, Sanders had already filed an amendment alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to expand the ability to negotiate drug prices.

Sanders would need 49 other senators and the vice president to vote with him to endorse them, given some opposition from the GOP. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Democratic whip, said leaders were trying to “discourage” that.

“I’m going to try to keep this bill clean and get it out” of the Senate, Durbin said. “It’s too important.”

The core of the bill includes: provisions to reduce the price of certain prescription drugs; spending more than $300 billion on climate change and clean energy; impose a 15% minimum tax on large corporations plus a new 1% excise tax on share buybacks; increase IRS enforcement; and extending Obamacare grants until the 2024 election.

Importantly, the fate of a major health care provision Democrats want in the bill remains uncertain: lowering the price of insulin, a top priority for imperiled incumbent Senator Raphael. Warnock (D-Ga.). Republicans are expected to challenge the real-time insulin supply, forcing a showdown in the Senate.

“I need them not to block it,” Warnock said of Republicans. “If they don’t block it, it will pass.”

Aides on both sides of the aisle had argued over Democrats’ drug pricing plans for weeks. Republicans argued that the savings from the mandate involving the private insurance market, in particular, could be viewed as a fiscal side effect rather than the primary policy goal, which would violate the fiscal rules of the Senate.

Senate Republicans have consistently criticized Democratic prescription drug language to fix prices. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it would ‘create a world where far fewer new drugs and treatments are invented in the first place as companies cut back’ on research and development.

Democrats also received good news overnight about their climate change plan – the Senate rules arbiter approved the bill’s energy provisions, including electric vehicle tax credits and a bonus tax credit to encourage clean energy developers to pay the going wage. The electric vehicle portion of the bill also includes provisions to encourage American manufacturing of batteries that Manchin supports.

Democrats also retained another element of the climate section of the bill: a proposed royalty on oil and gas companies that exceed a certain level of methane emissions. And under the leadership of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), wording of accelerated corporate tax depreciation legislation was scuttled on Thursday, as was a proposed narrowing of the so-called interest loophole. ported that covers certain investment income.

She and three other Western Democratic senators also secured $4 billion in new drought funding in the party line bill.

Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.

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