This afternoon, after pulling a “vote-a-rama” all nighter, the United States Senate resolved — with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote! — to pass the climate and health focused Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin.
This is easily the most ambitious climate bill the Senate has ever passed, so it’s a pretty big moment. But it doesn’t just take climate action. It would also lower drug costs for millions of American families by allowing Medicare to finally — finally! — negotiate the cost of prescription drugs.
The legislation is a fraction of the size of Build Back Better, and includes giveaways to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to win their votes. Nevertheless, it puts us in a better position to tackle the climate crisis and cost of living increases.
President Biden’s comments
“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share,” said President Joe Biden in a special statement.
“I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period. This bill caps seniors’ out of pocket spending for prescription drugs at $2000 per year – no matter what their drug bills would otherwise be, seniors will not have to spend more than $2000.”
“In addition, thirteen million Americans, covered under the Affordable Care Act, will see their health insurance premiums reduced by $800. This bill tackles inflation by lowering the deficit and lowering costs for regular families.”
“It addresses the climate crisis and strengthens our energy security, creating jobs manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles in America with American workers. It lowers families’ energy costs by hundreds of dollars each year. Finally, it pays for all this by establishing a minimum corporate tax so that our richest corporations start to pay their fair share. It does not raise taxes on those making under $400,000 a year – not one cent.”
“I want to thank Leader Schumer and every member of the Senate Democratic caucus for supporting this bill. It required many compromises.”
“Doing important things almost always does. The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law.”
Governor Inslee’s comments
“Washingtonians will take deep satisfaction knowing our decades-long vision of a clean energy economy creating good, family wage jobs all across America is coming closer to reality,” said Governor Jay Inslee, who monitored the vote.
“These long-sought measures, part of the single largest investment to address climate change in American history, should rightfully encourage both our state and the federal governments to take further necessary steps.”
“We need more if we are to fully meet America’s commitments under the Paris Climate Accords. I urge the administration to build on this breakthrough by taking all executive action available to them. We must not miss this moment.”
“The Senate has taken the essential step, and Americans are rightfully optimistic. I thank Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for their unflagging, heroic efforts to pass reconciliation legislation through the Senate that meets the scale of our climate crisis, lowers health care costs for Washingtonians, and fights inflation. They delivered.”
“The House of Representatives should pass the Inflation Reduction Act this week so that President Biden may sign it into law – a day all Americans will remember.”
Senator Murray’s comments
“No one should have to worry about whether they can afford the health care or medicine they need. This bill will finally give Medicare power to force drug companies to the bargaining table and negotiate lower drug prices for patients across the country,” said Washington’s senior U.S. Senator Patty Murray.
“And for seniors who are often on fixed incomes: we are going to cap the price of insulin at just $35 per month, cap out-of-pocket costs, and we are stopping big pharma from jacking up the cost of their drugs.”
“Lifesaving medicine doesn’t do any good if people can’t afford it—and this legislation makes meaningful progress toward making sure people don’t have to empty their savings account just so they can fill their prescription.”
“This bill helps people get quality, affordable insurance too, by extending the health care tax credits we passed in the American Rescue Plan—that makes a difference right now for millions of people,” Murray added.
“More than 100,000 people found coverage on Washington state’s exchange for no more than $100 a month because of these tax credits. These aren’t just words on paper and it’s not just about saving patients’ money — this will save lives.”
“We are helping patients who are rationing their prescriptions to make ends meet, or who are afraid to see their doctors—not because they are scared of getting a diagnosis, but because they are scared of the price tag. And I am going to keep building on this momentum with even more bold policies to ensure health care is truly a right, not a privilege, for everyone in our country.”
“I talk to young people in Seattle who are urgently calling on Congress to take bold climate action and families in Yakima County who are deeply concerned by a wildfire season that seems to get worse and worse every year — the climate crisis is here and it’s time we take action,” continued Senator Murray on the Inflation Reduction Act’s climate and energy provisions.
“This historic legislation will be the largest-ever investment in climate action in our country’s history. Washington state is uniquely poised to take full advantage of federal clean energy tax credits and grants that will deliver lower energy costs for consumers, millions of good-paying jobs, and promote real energy independence.”
“And finally — this legislation won’t just bring down families’ every day costs, it will bring down the deficit—by more than $300 billion,” Murray observed.
“Because every cent of this bill is paid for — and then some — by simply ensuring giant corporations pay their fair share in taxes.”
“There’s no reason a billion dollar corporation should pay less in taxes than a firefighter or a teacher in Walla Walla, Washington — just because the current system lets them skirt or even plain cheat on their taxes. That’s not right. And Democrats won’t let it fly any longer and no working or middle-class family in Washington state will see their taxes go up one penny.”
Senator Wyden’s comments
“This historic clean energy package has been a decade in the making,” said Oregon’s senior U.S. Senator Ron Wyden in a statement.
“When clean energy legislation failed in 2010, we regrouped to ensure success the next time Democrats had an opportunity. We turned to emissions-based, technology-neutral tax incentives, and spent nearly a decade preparing this bill.”
“My lodestar has been achieving the greatest emissions and cost-savings possible with fifty votes. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy tax package is about ninety percent of the Clean Energy for America Act that the Senate Finance Committee approved in May 2021.”
“We built the support needed over time.”
Wyden continued: “This bill will reduce energy costs, secure our energy independence, and drastically cut carbon emissions. For the first time, the tax code is going to reward emissions reductions, and encourage the development of new clean energy technologies as soon as they come online.”
“No longer will Congress need to legislate technology by technology, making it easier to innovate and bring new technologies to market.”
“Importantly, this is permanent energy policy. Congress will no longer need to extend these incentives every few years, giving companies and states certainty to plan clean energy projects and create jobs.”
“This is among the most consequential bills of my service in the Senate.”
“For too long, Medicare has been forced to contend with Big Pharma with one hand tied behind its back – that ends when this bill is signed into law,” Wyden added. “Ever since I became the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, I have been spotlighting how the drug pricing system is broken top to bottom.”
“At last, the Senate has begun to redefine the relationship between Medicare and Big Pharma. That work began last Congress on a bipartisan basis, and virtually the entirety of the Finance Committee’s work two years ago is included in the Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats have taken the critical next step by lifting the curse that has prevented Medicare from negotiating lower prices.”
“Medicare negotiation is the centerpiece of the Inflation Reduction Act’s drug pricing reforms. No longer will drug companies be able to string Medicare along for years or even decades while taxpayers foot the bill.”
“This policy targets the most expensive, most used drugs that have had zero competition for years on end. It lowers prices in a way that is fair and designed to promote innovation, not stifle it. Those negotiations will begin next year.”
“It creates a limit on Big Pharma’s ability to price gouge with the Medicare inflation rebate, requiring drug companies to pay a fee to Medicare if they raise their prices faster than inflation.”
“Critically, the bill will protect seniors from high out-of-pocket costs in less than a year and a half with a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on drug costs, which will spare more than a million seniors from financial peril. Taken together, these policies represent a seismic shift in how Medicare pays for medicine, and it does so in a way that will greatly lower costs for seniors and taxpayers.”
Senator Merkley’s comments
“Today is a big day for America,” said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Wyden’s seatmate. “For the first time, the U.S. Senate has passed major legislation to remake our energy system — and to do so while also lowering health care costs and creating good-paying, family wage jobs, all paid for by ensuring billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share in taxes.”
“We’re taking on Big Pharma to lower drug prices. This bill starts the process of negotiating prescription drug prices and caps out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions at $2,000 a year for seniors on Medicare.”
“Additionally, it helps middle class families get affordable insurance coverage by extending key tax credits and preventing big cost increases that would have hit families this fall. This bill is a big win for affordable health care, and we need to keep building on it. American taxpayers contribute more than the citizens of any other nation in the world to research and development of drugs.”
“They deserve the best prices in the world, not the worst.”
“We’re going to transition to clean energy and create high-quality union jobs while we do it. Year after year, I’ve seen my home state of Oregon and other states across the West decimated by mega wildfires and record droughts.”
“In other parts of the country, we’ve seen superstorms, sea rise, and unprecedented flooding. Climate chaos is here, and we have to act now to save lives and livelihoods from catastrophe. This bill is the most significant piece of climate legislation ever passed through the U.S. Senate and finally puts us on a path to transition to clean and renewable energy.”
Evergreen Action’s reaction
“This is a historic moment for climate action, and a turning point in American climate policy,” said Evergreen Action’s Jamal Raad.
“Today, the Senate passed the largest climate investment in history — by far. This is the end of a decades-long road to pass a climate bill, but it’s only the beginning of the road towards achieving the greenhouse gas pollution reductions that science demands and building a better future for us all.”
The Northwest Progressive Institute supports the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This landmark bill will advance America’s efforts to meet its moral obligation to tackle the climate crisis and will finally allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs, which will help millions of Americans in the years to come. Finally, this bill actually makes our tax code fairer for a change, increasing funding for the Internal Revenue Service and putting us on a path to greater fiscal responsibility.
We look forward to House passage and the White House signing ceremony.