President Joe Biden signed a landmark $750 billion spending bill — which includes provisions for climate change, healthcare, and inflation reduction — into law on Tuesday. “With this law the American people won and the special interests lost,” Biden said before the signing.
The Inflation Reduction Act will provide nearly $400 million towards climate action, representing the largest environmental investment in American history. It will also allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and cap out-of-pocket prescription spending for older Americans. The bill passed through both congressional chambers in party-line votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
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“We have to believe in ourselves,” Biden added, noting that he’s been “looking forward to for 18 months.” He also bashed the Republicans who “sided with the special interests in this vote.”
The bill may be the most significant environmental investment in the nation’s history, but it’s not going to solve the climate crisis on its own. “Let’s not wonder if this bill is ambitious enough to stave off the climate crisis,” Jeff Goodell wrote for Rolling Stone on Tuesday. “It is not. The climate crisis is not like a broken leg, where you find a good doctor and he puts you in a cast for six weeks and you’re back to normal. There is no ‘fix’ for the climate crisis. There is no going back to ‘normal.’ There is only a long, hard fight for a better world.”
If implemented in full, models predict that the climate bill will use tax rebates and subsidies on clean energy to lower emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and put the country within striking distances of the Biden administration’s goal cutting emissions in half by 2050. The bill could “supercharge” the clean energy industry through investments in wind and solar energy, as well as increase the domestic production and affordability of sustainable transportation, including electric vehicles.
Some advocates worry that the reality is much less optimistic, and that the bill’s moderate gains left key climate provisions (and millions more in funding) on the cutting room floor, and came with a heavy environmental price tag. This includes a provision, demanded by Sen. Manchin in exchange for his support, that would “streamline” coal and pipeline permits.
Earlier versions of the package included policies aimed at increasing the tax burden on wealthy investors, including addressing the “carried interest loophole,” but Sen. Sinema opposed establishing a minimum tax on corporations and worked to have the number lowered. Last week, an investigation by the Associated Press revealed that Sinema had accepted nearly $1 million over the last year from “private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose taxes would have increased under the plan.”
Democrats hope that, despite its narrowed scope, the Inflation Reduction Act will help bolster enthusiasm for a president facing a crisis of voter enthusiasm that could affect the party in the 2022 midterm elections, as well as its chances of retaining the White House in 2024. “[This bill] is about showing the American people that democracy still works in America,” Biden said on Tuesday. “Not withstanding all the talk of its demise.”
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