Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Thursday made his first remarks in support of a massive spending package aimed at lowering healthcare costs, reducing the deficit, and fighting climate change, breathing new life into President Joe Biden's stalled economic agenda.
Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) announced late Wednesday they had reached an agreement on the package.
The bill, entitled the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, includes $433 billion in new spending, largely going toward energy security and combating climate change.
It also contains nearly $740 billion in new revenue to help pay for the new initiatives including a 15 percent corporate minimum tax on the largest companies. Also, prescription drug reform provisions would allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of some drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies and provide funds to lower drug prices.
Schumer and Manchin announced the agreement after months of careful negotiations behind the scenes. The new deal comes after Manchin killed the president's previous effort to enact his economic agenda, known as Build Back Better, late last year.
"This is a bill for the country," Manchin said on a press call Thursday morning. "It's not a bill for Democrats. And it's not a bill Republicans should be concerned about."
Biden said in a statement he supports the legislation, saying it takes on the biggest issues facing Americans.
"This is the action the American people have been waiting for," he said. "This addresses the problems of today — high health care costs and overall inflation — as well as investments in our energy security for the future."
Schumer said in his own statement he hopes to vote on the legislation next week. If all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus support the legislation, Schumer's plan can proceed.
Democrats will use the process known as budget reconciliation to pass this legislation in the Senate. That will allow them to advance the bill with only Democratic votes, avoiding a Republican filibuster, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie in the divided chamber.
Crucially, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has angered fellow Democrats over her opposition to parts of the Biden agenda, has yet to announce her support, with her office telling reporters she still has to review the text.
Schumer, though, signaled he is optimistic the bill will attract the necessary support.
"I thank Senator Manchin for his willingness to engage and his commitment to reaching an agreement that can earn the support of all 50 Senate Democrats," he said.
Details in the Bill
The biggest provisions in the bill are long-standing Democratic priorities.
The Medicare prescription drug reform allows the government healthcare program for seniors to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on the prices of some prescription drugs. It also caps Medicare recipients' out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year and closes a loophole that would have allowed for a future Secretary of Health and Human Services to stop negotiating prices.
The climate portion of the bill takes an all-of-the-above energy approach and includes investment in several energy programs, including renewables, hydrogen, nuclear, and fossil fuels.
While it is not the aggressive vision some Democrats hoped to see on the environment, it still includes a massive investment to fight climate change.
"By a wide margin, this legislation will be the greatest pro-climate legislation that has ever been passed by Congress," Schumer said. "This legislation fights the climate crisis with the urgency the situation demands and puts the U.S. on a path to roughly 40 percent emissions reductions by 2030, all while creating new good-paying jobs in the near and long-term."
Republicans are expected to oppose the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened several weeks ago to block the bipartisan semiconductor bill if Democrats pushed forward on a large spending bill.
Manchin announced the deal just hours after the Senate passed the semiconductor bill Wednesday.
"Democrats have already crushed American families with historic inflation," McConnell tweeted after the announcement Wednesday. "Now they want to pile on giant tax hikes that will hammer workers and kill many thousands of American jobs. First they killed your family's budget. Now they want to kill your job too."