Wednesday, 10th August 2022
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Biden’s cornerstone climate and health bill back before the Senate

After 18 months, a possible victory for Joe Biden's social and climate reform legislation seems within reach: Congress on Saturday will begin debating a revised version of the US President's cornerstone bill

[FILES] US President Joe Biden (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

After 18 months, a possible victory for Joe Biden’s social and climate reform legislation seems within reach: Congress on Saturday will begin debating a revised version of the US President’s cornerstone bill, the fruit of numerous compromises with those on his party’s right.

Biden, who took office promising big reforms, is calling the bill “a gamechanger for working families.”

The legislation — officially the Inflation Reduction Act — includes $370 billion towards ambitious climate goals and $64 billion for health care.

That would make it the largest investment yet in clean energy by the United States, something that Biden has called “historic.”

Sweetening the deal
Despite yearly fires and deadly flooding in parts of the country, the climate crisis does not register high on the average household’s list of concerns, falling below issues like inflation or unemployment.

To garner support for their climate initiatives, Democrats sweetened the legislation with tax credits for producers and consumers of wind, solar and nuclear power.

Funding would additionally be allocated towards protecting forests from the increasingly extreme wildfire seasons that have ravaged the US West in recent years, a phenomenon directly linked to climate change.

Tackling drug prices
The bill additionally tackles exorbitant drug prices for medication such as insulin, in an attempt to partially ease the immense inequality that exists in US access to health care.

“The anguish of people not being able to pay for medicines that may save their lives will be greatly reduced,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

One of the major reforms in the bill would, for example, force pharmaceutical companies to offer rebates for certain drugs if the prices are rising faster than inflation.

The cost of some medication in the United States can be up to ten times more expensive than in other wealthy nations.

The bill also aims to reduce the federal deficit via a minimum corporate tax of 15 percent for all companies with profits exceeding one billion dollars.

– ‘Defeat this bill‘ –
The funding is popular with Americans, according to several polls, but has been strongly denounced by Republicans, who say Biden will stoke record-breaking inflation.

“We’re going to do everything we can to defeat this bill,” Republican Senator John Thune promised on Friday.

But Republicans’ tools to block the legislation are limited: Democrats can pass it without any votes from across the aisle.

The Republicans could, however, try to slow down the legislative process by presenting amendments during the debate.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill early next week. After that, it will head to the House of Representatives, where Democrats have a narrow majority, for a vote there.

Biden, seeking a political win with fewer than 100 days before November’s midterm elections, is urging Congress to pass it without further delay.

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