By Shawn Stinson
Vice President Kamala Harris needed to break the tie to pass the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. Senate.
Harris cast the tie-breaking vote on Aug. 7 to approve the act in a 51-50 vote that was split along party lines. West Virginia’s two senators split their votes also along party lines.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D) voted in favor of the act, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) cast a dissenting vote.
President Joe Biden applauded the senators for approving the bill and moving to the House of Representatives.
“I want to thank Leader Schumer and every member of the Senate Democratic caucus for supporting this bill,” Biden said. “It required many compromises. Doing important things almost always does. The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law.”
Manchin joined Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on July 27 to announce they have agreed to send the act to a vote. Manchin had been one of the Democratic opponents to earlier versions of the bill.
“For years, I have worked across the aisle to determine the most effective way to increase domestic energy production, lower energy and health care costs and pay down our national debt without raising costs for working Americans,” Manchin said in a release following the passage of the bill. “The Inflation Reduction Act is the product of that work and I am proud the Senate passed this bill that will lower the inflation taxes that have been so hurtful for West Virginian and American families.
“By investing in American energy production and innovative technologies the U.S. is on a path toward energy security, lower gas and home energy prices and we are leading the fight on global climate. By ensuring fairness in our federal tax code so that the largest and most profitable corporations pay their fair share, we can begin to get our financial house in order while protecting working Americans and small businesses. I look forward to seeing the U.S. House of Representatives pass this important legislation and President Biden quickly signing it into law. We are moving full steam ahead on comprehensive bipartisan permitting reform so we can efficiently and safely bring more domestic energy projects online. Congress will pass that legislation next month.”
Capito was quick to criticize the passage of the bill and said it would do very little to tackle inflation concerns.
“Senate Democrats just voted to raise taxes on working families, kill West Virginia’s coal industry, and empower the IRS to spend more time snooping around Main Street,” Capito said in a press release. “At a time of record inflation, it’s inexplicable for them to repeat the massive over-taxing, over-spending and over-regulating mistakes already driving us into a recession. Throughout the Senate Democrats’ short-circuited process for ramming through this reckless legislation, I have spent a lot of time and energy exposing the harmful provisions in this partisan bill, while also offering bipartisan solutions. Unfortunately, however, families, employers, and workers in West Virginia already know they will soon bear the burden of this untimely, avoidable mistake.”
Proponents of the bill said it would generate nearly $740 billion in revenue in a 10-year period. They added the act would bring in $313 billion by raising the corporate minimum tax to 15% for businesses worth more than $1 billion as well as a 1% tax on stock buybacks, another $288 billion by allowing Medicare officials to negotiate prescription drug prices, $124 billion by enforcing existing tax codes and $14 billion by closing the carried interest loophole.
Senate Democrats added the bill would invest nearly $369 billion in energy security and climate change efforts and $64 billion in Affordable Care Act subsidies. The remaining funds would be dedicated to lowering the federal deficit.
The legislation would limit out-of-pocket costs to Medicare patients to $2,000. The subsidies for the ACA would be extended through 2025. Federal officials estimate nearly 23,000 West Virginians would have higher insurance premiums if lawmakers do not extend the subsidies. The plan includes a permanent extension of funds for the black lung disability trust fund. Previously, lawmakers failed to renew an excise tax on American coal during last year’s session.
Capito submitted an amendment to reduce regulations on energy and infrastructure projects in the U.S. Part of the agreement between Manchin and Schumer to vote on the bill would allow lawmakers to consider changes to the permitting process later this year. Manchin mentioned the proposed completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile system to transport natural gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia.
Capito’s amendment failed by a 50-50 vote.
“I have expressed my skepticism that Democrats will keep their promise to pass meaningful permitting reform later this year,” Capito said. “The fact of the matter is that with 60 votes, meaningful reforms to expedite projects and block Biden administration actions that will slow down development could have been added to this bill tonight. After voting to stop permitting reform tonight, it is even harder to believe that Democrats will join us to enact it next month.”
The members of the House of Representatives are expected to return from their August recess on Friday to consider the Inflation Reduction Act. Economists have estimated the bill will have a minimal effect on inflation.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D), center, joined his fellow Democrats to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.