October 01, 2023

Lots to brag about

Congress worked hard to pass the Inflation Reduction bill, and it’s headed for the President’s signature this week. Well, actually it wasn’t Congress; it was the Democrats who spent months crafting one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation ever. The only input from Republicans was to vote against it.

They did help pass the infrastructure bill a few months ago when a bipartisan group in the Senate recognized the importance of fixing the nation’s infrastructure. Nineteen Republicans voted for that bill, including Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst voted against it.

In June, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed with 15 Republican senators joining Democrats to vote for gun safety legislation. Ernst voted for the bill. Grassley voted against it, saying concern for Constitutional rights kept him from voting for the bill. In other words, the gun lobby got to him.

Recently, the bipartisan CHIPS Act was passed that is intended to substantially increase American high-tech manufacturing and help our nation overtake China in the semi-conductor industry. Seventeen GOP senators voted for the bill along with the Democrats, including Grassley - but not Ernst.

This latest bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, was approved last week by a simple majority under the Senate’s reconciliation rules. Two Democrats in the Senate who weren’t on board before, finally agreed to a scaled back version that is still significant in scope. It passed with a 50-50 vote, plus the tie-breaker vote cast by Vice President Harris. The bill is far more modest than the original Build Back Better bill, but the fact that such sweeping legislation got approved is almost miraculous.

Nearly everyone thought the chances of getting it passed were dead.

This bill invests in clean energy, and reduces carbon emissions with incentives, rather than penalties. It is the largest ever commitment to cleaning up the atmosphere, and more than Joe Manchin, the Senator from West Virginia coal country, had ever supported before. The key to getting his support: A 15% tax on corporations to fund a multitude of projects for cleaning up the air. A nice side effect: millions of new clean-energy jobs.

The bill also provides for better health coverage for millions of Americans by negotiating the price of prescription drugs. Finally, a measure that’s been sought since the original prescription drug program was established. A special provision calls for a $35 cap on insulin prices for Medicare recipients. Democrats tried to get the cap approved for all insulin users but Republicans voted it down, including Ernst and Grassley.

Government budget analysts who reviewed the numbers prior to passage, estimate this bill with its job creation in clean energy and tax revenues from corporations, will significantly reduce the deficit in three years.

Numerous large U.S. corporations have been earning billions of dollars in profits and paying little or no taxes as a result of the 2019 tax cuts for the rich. Those cuts were passed during the one session the GOP held majorities in Congress, plus the White House. Another provision of the new Act is to improve taxpayer services and reduce tax cheater fraud.

Every House Republican and every Senate Republican voted against the Inflation Reduction Act. As usual, they refer to Democrats as “tax and spend” liberals because they work to pass legislation that addresses critical problems facing Americans. Republicans never like spending money on much of anything other than defense and tax cuts. They don’t mind spending money if it’s for military weapons, or sacrificing revenue if it’s for tax cuts, but, generally, they deem unimportant such programs as reversing climate change.

They don’t like spending money on social programs, either. They often consider aid to help families no better than welfare. They’ll say job creation is very important to the economy, but historically give little attention to the needs of the people who fill those jobs, like family leave and child care, for instance.

Legislation to protect the environment and working-class people gain little support from Republicans. The Inflation Reduction Act got zero support from them. Getting this bill passed over the objections of every Republican in Congress is pretty amazing.

President Biden and the Democrats have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments.