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Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking vote to pass Democrats’ $740 billion climate bill

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Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On August 7, the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which is a repackaged version of the Democrats’ original $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" bill. Its estimated cost is $740 billion. According to White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, "This is an absolute historic investment in climate change."

Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote after an all-night session. The final votes fell along party lines, with all 50 Republicans opposing the bill.

The bill was supported by previous holdouts Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Of Manchin's decision, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "He made a terrible deal. ... How he can defend this from a West Virginia point of view, or think of it as a centrist kind of agreement, is astonishing."

The alleged aim of the bill is to lower prescription drug costs, help pay for health insurance, and invest in addressing so-called climate change. The bill assigns nearly $400 billion for green initiatives (e.g., tax credits for buying electric vehicles as well as for the manufacture of wind turbines), caps out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare to $2,000 a year, and extends expiring Obamacare subsidies.

McConnell defended Senate Republicans' opposition to the proposed drug pricing provisions, suggesting that they were "socialist price controls."

The act also includes a provision that a 15% minimum tax be imposed on corporate profits of $1 billion or more a year, although seven Democrat senators — Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly, and Jack Rosen — joined Republicans in exempting certain firms with private equity backing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that her chamber would “move swiftly to send this bill to the president’s desk,” and it is believed that House votes will be taken Friday.

While Democrats celebrated the result of the vote, others have voiced doubt about the good that the Inflation Reduction Act might accomplish.

West Virginia state Treasurer Riley Moore suggested that this bill will "turbocharg[e] inflation" and announced, "Democrats win. America loses."

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Marco Rubio asserted, “There isn’t a single thing in this bill that helps working people lower the price of groceries, or the price of gasoline, or the price of housing, or the price of clothes. There isn’t a single thing in this bill that is going to keep criminals in jail.” Rubio claimed further that this act ultimately fails to help with “the things working people in this country care about."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested that the bill would be disastrous to manufacturing and would make gas prices soar.

Comedian Tim Young questioned whether "printing billions of dollars" is the way to resolve inflation.

Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders admitted that the bill “will in fact have a minimal impact on inflation.”

Joe Gabriel Simonson suggested that the name of the bill, given the possibility voiced by Sanders that the Inflation Reduction Act may not ultimately reduce inflation, is a "lie."

Bjorn Lomborg, former director of the Danish government's Environmental Assessment Institute, indicated that notwithstanding the proposed expenditure, there will be virtually no climate benefits.

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