Democrats pass major health, climate and tax bill along party lines; Biden signing next week
"Today, the American people won," the president tweeted.
Every House Democrat on Friday voted to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) over uniform Republican opposition, sending the multibillion-dollar climate, health and tax bill to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
The package, which similarly passed the Senate on Sunday along party lines, was approved around 6 p.m. by a vote of 220-207.
Democrats in the chamber were seen celebrating what they are sure to champion as a legislative achievement -- which aims to make prescription drugs and health insurance cheaper while raising taxes on the wealthy, cutting the deficit, investing in clean energy and curbing climate change -- ahead of a contentious midterm cycle, when they will be up against the president's low approval ratings and other headwinds.
Biden soon tweeted his reaction to the House passage: "Today, the American people won. Special interests lost.”
“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," he wrote, and said he planned to sign the bill next week.
Total party unity in both chambers is a major feat for Democratic leadership, which has struggled for months to unite the caucus around one cohesive strategy. The party has been attempting since Biden took office in January 2021 to pass a social spending bill, which eventually became the IRA, a much slimmed-down version of the multitrillion-dollar plan Biden first backed.
The more than $700 billion package includes the nation’s most extensive investments ever in new climate initiatives; allows Medicare to negotiate some drug prices; and extends Affordable Care Act subsidies while reducing the federal deficit with a 15% corporate minimum tax and with an excise tax on corporate stock buybacks.
Despite the legislation's name, Republicans have pointed out, it will have only a negligible effect on inflation in the short term, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found.
But the CBO said it would reduce federal budget deficits by $102 billion over 10 years.
At a press conference ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was questioned on whether the bill could actually tame high -- but slightly cooling -- inflation in the next months.
“Well, you have to get started,” Pelosi said, noting that inflation is caused by many factors, like the COVID-19 supply chain crunch and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, on Friday called the bill “misguided" and “tone deaf." He spoke on the House floor for about 50 minutes ahead of the vote, mostly blasting the widespread use of proxy-voting for the bill’s passage and the IRA’s boosted IRS tax enforcement measures, which supporters say will actually target the wealthy who shuck their tax bills.
“Democrats more than any other majority in history are addicted to spending other people’s money,” McCarthy said.
Over half of the House voted by-proxy, which prolonged the bill’s passage by designating a certain member to cast in-person votes on behalf of absent lawmakers.
The IRA passed the Senate on Sunday without a single Republican supporter. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie breaking vote after a 16-hour "vote-a-rama" that saw a slew of proposed amendments by both parties -- and saw Senate Democrats forced to make last-minute adjustments to the bill's tax provisions.
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the IRA "one of the most comprehensive significant pieces of legislation that has passed the Senate and the Congress in decades."
“While much of D.C. was focused on the Senate vote earlier this week, the White House was just as focused on the House at the same time,” a White House official told ABC News, noting that the administration had been in contact with House leadership throughout the week.
Staff was also talking with individual members about the legislation, answering any questions and sending materials every day, the official said.
From his summer vacation on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Biden twice video-conferenced with his staff who worked on the IRA, according to the White House.
“The president called House members throughout the week; we had members at the CHIP signing and PACT Act signing which was another opportunity for POTUS to touch base with members on IRA," the official said. "White House staff also worked hard to refute Republican attacks on the bill and go on offense because of what Republicans were opposing.”
ABC News’ Justin Gomez, Molly Nagle and Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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