The package is the product of painstaking negotiations and will give Democrats a chance to achieve major political goals ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Senate Democrats are using a special process to pass the package without a Republican vote.
Once the legislation passes the Senate, it will then need to be approved by the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it.
The Senate is expected to proceed to the first procedural vote on Saturday to pass the bill. A simple majority is required for the motion to proceed.
Democrats control the narrowest possible majority and just 50 Senate seats, but are expected to be united in pushing the bill forward in the initial procedural vote.
In a key decision, Congresswoman Elizabeth MacDonough allowed a major component of Democrats’ prescription drug pricing plans to go ahead – giving Medicare the power to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs for the first time.
But MacDonough has restricted another provision aimed at driving down drug prices, imposing penalties on drug companies if they raise prices faster than inflation. Democrats wanted the measure to apply to both Medicare and the private insurance market. But the congressman ruled the inflation cap could only apply to Medicare, a Democratic aide said.
Still, Democrats hailed the decision, with Schumer saying “the overall agenda remains intact.”
Democrats are awaiting new cost estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to see how the decision affects their deficit projections. It is likely that the reduction in drug supply would somewhat limit the reduction in the package deficit.
Meanwhile, MacDonough decided to keep several climate measures from the Environment and Public Works Committee intact in the reconciliation bill, including a methane levy that would apply to oil and gas producers. letting out the powerful greenhouse gas methane above a certain threshold.
Earlier Saturday, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon announced that the clean energy tax portion of the bill “follows Senate rules, and important provisions to ensure that our clean energy future is built in America were approved by the parliamentarian”.
Schumer has yet to decide the exact time he plans to kick off the debate this weekend, according to a senior Democratic official. The timing of this vote is critical as it will initiate the process and determine when the bill will ultimately get its final vote. If Schumer waits to hold that first vote to open the debate, he could push back the rest of the votes on the bill until later Saturday or even all day Sunday.
The reason why the Democratic leaders have not decided yet is that they were waiting for the decisions of the parliamentarians. While they don’t need her to rule before the first procedural vote, Democrats’ goal is to make the changes she’s asking for before the process begins, the aide said. As a result, the timing of votes on amendments and the final adoption of the bill is highly variable.
What happens after the bill faces its first key vote
If the first procedural vote to proceed with the bill wins the support of the 50-member Democratic caucus, which is expected, then there will be up to 20 hours of debate evenly split between the two parties, although one party of this time could be returned to speed up the process.
Republicans will be able to use vote-a-rama to put Democrats on the spot and force politically difficult votes. The process usually extends overnight and into the early hours of the next morning. It is not yet known exactly when the vote-a-rama will begin, but it could start as soon as Saturday evening. If that happens, a final vote could potentially take place as early as the early hours of Sunday morning.
The House is set to return to consider the legislation on Friday, August 12, according to the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
How the bill addresses the climate crisis
For a party that failed to pass major climate legislation more than 10 years ago, the reconciliation bill represents a major and long-contested victory for Democrats.
The nearly $370 billion clean energy and climate package is the largest climate investment in US history and the environmental movement’s biggest victory since the historic Clean Air Act. It also comes at a critical time; this summer has seen punishing heat waves and deadly floods across the country, both of which scientists say are linked to global warming.
Analysis from Schumer’s office — along with multiple independent analyzes — suggests the measures would reduce U.S. carbon emissions by up to 40% by 2030. Tough climate regulations from the Biden administration and action by states would be necessary to meet Biden’s goal of cutting emissions by 50% by 2030.
The bill also contains numerous tax incentives intended to reduce the cost of electricity with more renewable energy and encourage more American consumers to switch to electricity to power their homes and vehicles.
Lawmakers said the bill represents a monumental victory and is just the beginning of what is needed to tackle the climate crisis.
“It’s not about the laws of politics, it’s about the laws of physics,” Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii told CNN. “We all knew going into this effort that we had to do what science tells us what to do.”
Key Health Care and Tax Policies in the Bill
The bill would empower Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain expensive drugs administered in doctors’ offices or purchased at pharmacies. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would negotiate prices for 10 drugs in 2026, and another 15 drugs in 2027 and again in 2028. The number would increase to 20 drugs per year for 2029 and beyond.
This controversial provision is far more limited than what House Democratic leaders have supported in the past. But it would open the door to achieving a long-standing party goal of allowing Medicare to use its weight to cut drug costs.
Democrats also plan to extend enhanced federal grants for Obamacare coverage through 2025, a year later than lawmakers recently discussed. That way they wouldn’t expire right after the 2024 presidential election.
To boost revenue, the bill would impose a minimum tax of 15% on income large corporations return to shareholders, known as accounting income, as opposed to the Internal Revenue Service. The measure, which would raise $258 billion over a decade, would apply to companies whose profits exceed $1 billion.
Concerned about how the provision would affect some businesses, particularly manufacturers, Sinema suggested she had secured changes to the Democrats’ plan to reduce how businesses can deduct impaired assets from their taxes. The details remain unclear.
However, Sinema reversed his party’s efforts to tighten the deferred interest loophole, which allows investment managers to treat much of their compensation as capital gains and pay a capital gains tax rate. long-term capital of 20% instead of income tax rates of up to 37%.
The provision would have extended from three to five years the length of time that investment managers’ profit shares must be held to take advantage of the reduced tax rate. Closing that loophole, which reportedly raised $14 billion over a decade, was a longtime goal of congressional Democrats.
In its place, a 1% excise tax on corporate stock buybacks was added, bringing in an additional $74 billion, according to a Democratic aide.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Ella Nilsen, Tami Luhby, Katie Lobosco and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.