Senate Democrats are scrambling for a royal battle with Republicans over a 700-page bill that will reform tax laws, tackle climate change, lower the cost of drugs and reduce the deficit in hopes of delivering what President Biden’s most significant legislative achievement.
While the $1.9 trillion US bailout the Democrats enacted last year was a bigger bill in terms of dollars spent, the Inflation Reduction Act will deliver on what Democrats have promised for years.
It would require profitable companies to pay more taxes, reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change, lower the price of many prescription drugs, and maintain the affordability of the Affordable Care Act’s health plans.
The legislation will come under special budget-alignment rules that will allow Democrats to avoid a GOP filibuster and pass it by a simple majority. But to stay in line with the reconciliation rules, the legislation must focus strictly on expenses, income or the federal debt limit.
Significant policy changes that only have a tangential impact on spending or revenue are violations of the Senate Byrd rule — named after former Senator Robert Byrd (TUSEN.Va.).
Program for Saturday
Senators say there are many unanswered questions in the debate, but they have a general idea of how things will play out this weekend.
The Senate will meet Saturday at noon and vote at 12:30 p.m. on a motion to fire a candidate to serve as an assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency outside the committee. This will serve as an attendance vote to ensure that all 50 members of the Democratic caucus are in attendance.
Eighty-two-year-old Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who missed weeks of voting in the Capitol after falling and breaking his hip in June, is expected to take the floor again to vote.
Later in the day, the Senate will vote on the motion to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to be broken down strictly along party lines.
The leaders said Friday they expected all 50 Senate Democrats and all 50 Senate Republicans to be in the opening ballot, meaning Vice President Harris will be in attendance to break a 50-50 tie. Harris also voted in March last year to cut ties to the motion to proceed with the US bailout plan.
That would then lead to 20 hours of debate on the bill, which could extend into late evening or Saturday midnight. The 20 hours of debate would be split equally between the parties.
At some point, Schumer will have to finalize negotiations on some provisions of the bill that have not yet been resolved Friday afternoon, such as money requested by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to improve her state’s drought resistance.
Republican senators said earlier this week they planned to use their full 10-hour allotment to speak on the bill, which would likely mean extending the debate time to Sunday.
But Senate Republican Whip John Thune (SD) said on Friday that his Republican colleagues would now like to speed up the debate so they can move forward with amendments to the legislation more quickly.
“There will probably be interest in getting amendments pretty soon,” he said, predicting that voting on the amendments could start as early as Saturday afternoon.
Still, Thune didn’t rule out the possibility that Senate Republicans would try to drag the consideration off the huge bill by forcing the clerks to read the text aloud on the floor for several hours or use other procedural delays.
“To be defined. I don’t think we know the answer to that for sure, because any member can do that,” he said.
Senators are given up to 20 hours of debate time, but they can return some of that.
Then senators would vote on a series of open-ended amendments, a process known as a vote-a-rama.
sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), the top budget committee member, pledged Friday to make the process as painful as possible for Democrats.
“What will vote-a-rama be like? It’ll be hell,” Graham declared. “They deserve this.”
He said centrist senators such as Senator Joe Manchin (TUSEN.Va.) and Sinema “strengthen legislation that will make life harder for the average person at a time when they cannot afford higher gas taxes.
Senate Republicans estimate that between 40 and 50 amendments will need to be voted on.
Their goal is to inflict as much political damage as possible on vulnerable Democrats running for re-election in November, such as Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Maggie Hassan (D-Ariz.).
Republicans in the Senate say they will force Democrats to get tough votes on border security, energy prices, crime prevention and inflation.
“Expect to see changes in all of these things,” said John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) says he plans to propose an amendment related to the Title 42 health ordinance that prohibits migrants from staying in the country to await the processing of asylum applications.
Lankford filed a bill in April with Sinema, Manchin, Kelly, Hassan, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and several Republicans to delay the end of the Title 42 order until the Biden administration had a comprehensive plan. to secure the border.
A federal judge blocked the Biden administration from lifting Title 42 in May.
Republicans hope they can pressure vulnerable Democrats to vote with all 50 members of the GOP conference to pass an amendment to the bill that will make the rest of the legislation unpalatable to the rest of Democrats in the Senate . But they recognize that it is a long-term strategy.
They predict that Democratic leaders will side-by-side offer amendments to give vulnerable Democratic senators like Kelly and Warnock political cover for not voting for any of the Republicans.
At the end of the vote-a-rama, Schumer will offer a replacement amendment that will make any final changes he wants to add to the Inflation Reduction Act and remove any amendments made during the vote-a-rama that would make the final jeopardize passage through the Senate or jeopardize the bill’s prospects in the House.
Republicans are trying to pressure Manchin and Sinema to oppose the final enveloping amendment so that some amendments have a chance of being included in the final bill.
“The question for both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema is whether either of these amendments will eventually pass, whether or not you will vote for the enveloping amendment,” Thune said. “I think we kind of expect the Democrats to agree” to their leaders’ wishes.
The vote-a-rama will conclude with a final vote on the legislation, which, if successful, would send it to the House and then Biden’s office.
Schumer admitted on Friday that he is still unsure exactly what to expect in terms of when senators will pass the motion to go ahead and when the amendments will begin or end. But he is confident he will have the final votes to pass the bill in the coming days.
“We feel pretty good,” he said. “I am pleased that we have reached an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act that I believe will have the support of the entire Democratic Senate conference.”