Still, Schumer lamented “an unfortunate decision” earlier Saturday, the loss of the benefits proposed by Democrats on prescription drug prices for the millions of Americans who receive health insurance through employers in the private sector. It was the only major setback the bill has seen from the nonpartisan Senate rules arbiter, who decides which provisions are eligible to circumvent a GOP filibuster under the house’s strict rules; Negotiating the price of Medicare-related drugs remained intact, as did the guts of the deal.
Democrats are still awaiting the exact parameters and score from the Congressional Budget Office of a bill that has undergone whiplash-inducing changes in the past 48 hours, particularly with respect to deficit reduction. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he expects the CBO score at 4 p.m., adding that Democrats will give Republicans time to review it and adjust their amendments in hopes to hold the first vote at 7 p.m.
Yet the heart of the bill moves forward: provisions to reduce the price of certain prescription drugs; spending more than $300 billion on climate change and clean energy; impose a 15% minimum tax on large corporations plus a new 1% excise tax on share buybacks; increase IRS enforcement; and extending Obamacare grants until the 2024 election.
After the Senate votes to pass the legislation at a simple majority threshold, possibly on Saturday afternoon, there can be up to 20 hours of debate time before an unlimited ‘vote-a-rama’ amendment “. Senators will likely work to try to reduce that time frame, although it will take the agreement of all 100 of them to expedite the bill. Minority Whip John Thune (RS.D.) said he expected the round of unlimited votes to begin later Saturday.
The GOP will use the amendment marathon to stage a series of politically sensitive votes for Democrats in hopes of amending the party line package that has been in the works for more than a year, driving a wedge between the House and Senate Democrats. Once the Senate has endured this process, its Democrats can finally approve the entire bill.
“We have to keep the deal intact and not let the Republicans take us. Democrats understand that and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). ‘Achieving that is with Democratic votes, we can’t afford to lose anyone and what that means, we’re in this boat together.’
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he “will vote NO on all amendments, even on things I like” and was joined by several other Democrats in that vow. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), however, said he wants to propose amendments to expand Medicare benefits and the extent of drug price reform, saying Saturday that “no one can deny that this legislation does not resolve major crises”. to working families.
Sanders would need 49 other senators and the vice president to vote with him to approve them. Durbin said leaders were trying to “discourage” that.
“I will try to keep this bill clean and get it out of here. It’s too important. Durbin said.
Sanders said Saturday. “People need to know that Medicare won’t negotiate prescription drug prices for four years, and then it’s only 10 drugs, a small fraction of the drugs that are available.”
Importantly, the fate of a major health care provision Democrats want in the bill remains uncertain: lowering the price of insulin, a top priority for imperiled incumbent Senator Raphael. Warnock (D-Ga.). Republicans are trying to block the insulin proposal, arguing that its policy implications for the private market outweigh its fiscal impact. This could trigger a vote at a threshold of 60 votes.
“I need them not to block it,” Warnock said of Republicans. “If they don’t block it, it will pass.”
Aides on both sides of the aisle had been squabbling over Democrats’ drug pricing plans for weeks. Republicans argued that the savings from the mandate involving the private insurance market, in particular, could be viewed as a fiscal side effect rather than the primary policy goal, which would violate the fiscal rules of the Senate.
Senate Republicans have consistently criticized Democratic prescription drug language to fix prices. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it would “lead to a world where far fewer new drugs and treatments are invented in the first place as companies reduce R&D”.
Democrats also received good news overnight about their climate change plan – the Senate rules arbiter approved the bill’s energy provisions, including electric vehicle tax credits and a bonus tax credit to encourage clean energy developers to pay the going wage. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he was “particularly pleased that our current salary provisions have been approved.”
The electric vehicle portion of the bill also includes provisions to encourage U.S. battery manufacturing that Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) supports. Democrats also retained another element of the climate section of the bill: a proposed royalty on oil and gas companies that exceed a certain level of methane emissions.
And under the leadership of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), wording of accelerated corporate tax depreciation legislation was scuttled on Thursday, as was a proposed narrowing of the so-called interest loophole. ported that covers certain investment income. She and three other western Democratic senators also secured $4 billion in new drought funding in the party line bill.
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