President Biden Signs Massive Climate And Health Care Legislation

President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the “final piece” of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.

In a triumphant signing event at the White House, President Biden pointed to the law as proof that democracy — no matter how long or messy the process — can still deliver for voters in America as he road-tested a line he will likely repeat later this fall ahead of the midterms: “The American people won, and the special interests lost.”

“In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people, and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests in this vote,” President Biden said, repeatedly seizing on the contrast between his party and the GOP. “Every single one.”

The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.

“In normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during the White House ceremony. “But to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing.”

President Biden signed the bill into law during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside vacation in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He plans to hold a larger “celebration” for the legislation on Sept. 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.

The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for President Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers. The president and lawmakers have also responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and overwhelmingly supported NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.

With President Biden’s approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms. The 79-year-old president aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a reelection bid.

The White House announced Monday that it was going to deploy President Biden and members of his Cabinet on a “Building a Better America Tour” to promote the recent victories. One of President Biden’s trips will be to Ohio, where he’ll view the groundbreaking of a semiconductor plant that will benefit from the recent law to bolster production of such computer chips. He will also stop in Pennsylvania to promote his administration’s plan for safer communities, a visit that had been planned the same day he tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

“In the coming weeks, the President will host a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, will travel across the country to highlight how the bill will help the American people, and will host an event to celebrate the enactment of the bill at the White House on September 6th,” the White House said in a statement.

Republicans say the legislation’s new business taxes will increase prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its highest inflation since 1981. Though Democrats have labeled the measure the Inflation Reduction Act, nonpartisan analysts say it will have a barely perceptible impact on prices.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., on Tuesday continued those same criticisms, although he acknowledged there would be “benefit” through extensions on tax credits for renewable energy projects like solar and wind.

“I think it’s too much spending, too much taxing, and in my view wrong priorities, and a super-charged, super-sized IRS that is going to be going after a lot of not just high-income taxpayers but a lot of mid-income taxpayers,” said Thune, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event in Sioux Falls. The administration has disputed that anyone but high earners will face increased tax scrutiny, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen directing the tax agency to focus solely on businesses and people earning more than $400,000 per year for the new audits.

The measure is a slimmed-down version of the more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that President Biden and his party unveiled early last year.

President Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly divided Senate.

During the signing event, President Biden addressed Manchin, who struck the critical deal with Schumer on the package last month, saying, “Joe, I never had a doubt” as the crowd chuckled.

Though the law is considerably smaller than their initial ambitions, President Biden and Democrats are hailing the legislation as a once-in-a-generation investment in addressing the long-term effects of climate change, as well as drought in the nation’s West.

The bill will direct spending, tax credits and loans to bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants, and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 annually starting in 2025, and beginning next year would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a powerful political ally to President Biden, noted during the White House ceremony that his late wife, Emily, who battled diabetes for three decades, would be “beyond joy” if she were alive today because of the insulin cap.

“Many seem surprised at your successes,” Clyburn told President Biden. “I am not. I know you.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Biden To Sign Massive Climate And Health Care Legislation

By Associated Press
August 16, 2022

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change and would cap prescription drug costs.

President Joe Biden will sign Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the “final piece” of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.

The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.

President Biden is set to sign the bill during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside vacation in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He plans to hold a larger “celebration” for the legislation on Sept. 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.

The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for President Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers. The president and lawmakers have also responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supported NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.

With President Biden’s approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms. The 79-year-old president aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a reelection bid.

The White House announced Monday that it was going to deploy President Biden and members of his Cabinet on a “Building a Better America Tour” to promote the recent victories, though the administration has yet to announce specific travel by the president.

“In the coming weeks, the President will host a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, will travel across the country to highlight how the bill will help the American people, and will host an event to celebrate the enactment of the bill at the White House on September 6th,” the White House said in a statement.

Republicans say the legislation’s new business taxes will increase prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its highest inflation since 1981. Though Democrats have labeled the measure the Inflation Reduction Act, nonpartisan analysts say it will have a barely perceptible impact on prices.

The measure is a slimmed-down version of the more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that President Biden and his party unveiled early last year.

President Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly divided Senate.

Still, President Biden and Democrats are hailing the legislation as a once-in-a-generation investment in addressing the long-term effects of climate change, as well as drought in the nation’s West.

The bill will direct spending, tax credits and loans to bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants, and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 annually starting in 2025, and beginning next year would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Congress OKs Dems’ Climate, Health Bill, A Biden Triumph

The House used a party-line 220-207 vote to pass the legislation.

A divided Congress gave final approval Friday to Democrats’ flagship climate and health care bill, handing President Joe Biden a back-from-the-dead triumph on coveted priorities that the party hopes will bolster their prospects for keeping their hold on Congress in November’s elections.

The House used a party-line 220-207 vote to pass the legislation, which is but a shadow of the larger, more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that President Biden and his party envisioned early last year. Even so, Democrats happily declared victory on top-tier goals like providing Congress’ largest ever investment in curbing carbon emissions, reining in pharmaceutical costs and taxing large companies, a vote they believe will show they can wring accomplishments from a routinely gridlocked Washington that often disillusions voters.

“Today is a day of celebration, a day we take another giant step in our momentous agenda,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. She said the measure “meets the moment, ensuring that our families thrive and that our planet survives.”

Republicans solidly opposed the legislation, calling it a cornucopia of wasteful liberal daydreams that would raise taxes and families’ living costs. They did the same Sunday but Senate Democrats banded together and used Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote t o power the measure through that 50-50 chamber.

“Democrats, more than any other majority in history, are addicted to spending other people’s money, regardless of what we as a country can afford,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “I can almost see glee in their eyes.”

President Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly-divided Senate.

Still, the final legislation remained substantive. Its pillar is about $375 billion over 10 years to encourage industry and consumers to shift from carbon-emitting to cleaner forms of energy. That includes $4 billion to cope with the West’s catastrophic drought.

Spending, tax credits and loans would bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 starting in 2025, and beginning next year would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

The bill would raise around $740 billion in revenue over the decade, over a third from government savings from lower drug prices. More would flow from higher taxes on some $1 billion corporations, levies on companies that repurchase their own stock and stronger IRS tax collections. About $300 billion would remain to defray budget deficits, a sliver of the period’s projected $16 trillion total.

Against the backdrop of GOP attacks on the FBI for its court-empowered search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate for sensitive documents, Republicans repeatedly savaged the bill’s boost to the IRS budget. That is aimed at collecting an estimated $120 billion in unpaid taxes over the coming decade, and Republicans have misleadingly claimed that the IRS will hire 87,000 agents to target average families.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said Democrats would also “weaponize” the IRS with agents, “many of whom will be trained in the use of deadly force, to go after any American citizen.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Thursday on “Fox and Friends” if there would be an IRS “strike force that goes in with AK-15s already loaded, ready to shoot some small business person.”

Few IRS personnel are armed, and Democrats say the bill’s $80 billion, 10-year budget increase would be to replace waves of retirees, not just agents, and modernize equipment. They have said typical families and small businesses would not be targeted, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen directing the IRS this week to not “increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold” that would be audited.

Republicans say the legislation’s new business taxes will increase prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its worst inflation since 1981. Though Democrats have labeled the measure the Inflation Reduction Act, nonpartisan analysts say it will have a barely perceptible impact on prices.

The GOP also says the bill would raise taxes on lower- and middle-income families. An analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which didn’t include the bill’s tax breaks for health care and energy, estimated that the corporate tax boosts would marginally affect those taxpayers but indirectly, partly due to lower stock prices and wages.

The bill caps three months in which Congress has approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry, gun checks for young buyers and Ukraine’s invasion by Russia and adding Sweden and Finland to NATO. All passed with bipartisan support, suggesting Republicans also want to display their productive side.

It’s unclear whether voters will reward Democrats for the legislation after months of painfully high inflation dominating voters’ attention and President Biden’s dangerously low popularity with the public and a steady history of midterm elections that batter the party holding the White House.

The bill had its roots in early 2021, after Congress approved a $1.9 trillion measure over GOP opposition to combat the pandemic-induced economic downturn. Emboldened, the new president and his party reached further.

They called their $3.5 trillion plan Build Back Better. Besides social and environment initiatives, it proposed rolling back Trump-era tax breaks for the rich and corporations and $555 billion for climate efforts, well above the resources in Friday’s legislation.

With Manchin opposing those amounts, it was sliced to a roughly $2 trillion measure that Democrats moved through the House in November. He unexpectedly sank that bill too, earning scorn from exasperated fellow Democrats from Capitol Hill and the White House.

Last gasp talks between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., seemed fruitless until the two unexpectedly announced agreement last month on the new package.

Manchin won billions for carbon capture technology for the fossil fuel industries he champions, plus procedures for more oil drilling on federal lands and promises for faster energy project permitting. Centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., also won concessions, eliminating planned higher taxes on hedge fund managers and helping win the drought funds.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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House Dems Set To Overcome GOP For Climate, Health Care Win

The GOP opposes the bill, but the same was true Sunday when Dems used Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote to power it through the 50-50 Senate.

A flagship Democratic economic bill perched on the edge of House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on the brink of a back-from-the-dead triumph on his climate, health and tax goals that could energize his party ahead of November’s elections.

Democrats were poised to muscle the measure through the narrowly divided House Friday over solid Republican opposition. They employed similar party unity and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote Sunday to power the measure through the 50-50 Senate.

The package is but a shadow of President Biden’s initial vision and was produced only after a year of often bitter infighting between party leaders, progressives and centrists led by Sen. Joe Manchin,  empowered by that chamber’s even split. Ultimately, Democrats thirsty to declare victory forged a compromise on abiding goals like reining in pharmaceutical costs, taxing large companies and, especially, curbing carbon emissions. They are hoping to show they can wring accomplishments from an often fractiously gridlocked Washington that alienates many voters.

“Climate is a health issue. It’s a jobs issue. It’s a security issue. And it’s a values issue for us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this week. “I want more, of course, we always want more, but this is a great deal.”

The bill’s pillar is about $375 billion over 10 years to encourage industry and consumers to shift from carbon-emitting to cleaner forms of energy, hailed by experts as Congress’ biggest climate investment ever. That includes $4 billion added to cope with the West’s catastrophic drought.

Spending, tax credits and loans would bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

In a pair of top Democratic health priorities, another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 starting in 2025, and starting next year they would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

The bill would raise around $740 billion in revenue over the decade, over a third from government savings from lower drug prices. More would flow from higher taxes on some $1 billion corporations, levies on companies that repurchase their own stock and stronger IRS tax collections. Around $300 billion would remain to defray budget deficits, a fraction of the period’s projected total of $16 trillion.

Republicans say the legislation’s tax hikes will force companies to raise prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its worst inflation since 1981 that is wounding Democrats’ election prospects. Nonpartisan analysts say the measure will have negligible inflation impact one way or the other.

Echoing other culture war themes, the GOP has criticized initiatives like tax breaks for clean energy and electric vehicles as wasteful liberal daydreams. “If the Green New Deal and corporate welfare had a baby, it would look like this,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the House Ways and Means Committee’s top Republican.

Republicans say Democrats’ plan to expand the IRS budget, aimed at collecting about $120 billion in unpaid taxes, envisions 87,000 agents who’d be coming after families. Democrats called foul, saying their $80 billion IRS budget boost would be to replace waves of retirees, not just agents, and to modernize equipment, and say families and small businesses earning below $400,000 annually would not be targeted.

The GOP also says the bill would raise taxes on lower- and middle-income families. An analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which didn’t include the bill’s tax breaks for health care and energy, estimated that the corporate tax boosts would marginally affect those taxpayers, partly due to lower stock prices and wages.

The bill caps a fertile three months in which Congress has voted to improve veterans’ health benefits, gird the semiconductor industry, moderately strengthen gun restrictions for younger buyers, finance Ukraine’s war with Russia and add Finland and Sweden to NATO. All passed with bipartisan support, suggesting Republicans also want to display their productive side.

It’s unclear voters will reward Democrats for the legislation after months of painfully high inflation dominating voters’ attention. Though record gasoline prices have dipped, President Biden’s popularity dangles damagingly low and midterm elections have a consistent history of ending careers of lawmakers from the party that holds the White House.

Democrats’ economic bill had its roots in early 2021, after Congress approved a $1.9 trillion measure over GOP opposition to combat the pandemic-induced economic downturn. Emboldened, the new president and his party reached further.

They initially produced an ambitious 10-year, $3.5 trillion environment and social plan they called Build Back Better. It featured free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits, increases for education and housing and an easing of immigration restrictions. It sought to roll back Trump-era tax breaks for the rich and corporations and proposed $555 billion for climate efforts, well above the resources in Friday’s legislation.

With Manchin opposing those amounts, it was sliced to a roughly $2 trillion measure that Democrats moved through the House in November. Just before Christmas, Manchin unexpectedly sank that bill, citing fears of inflation and international uncertainty and earning brickbats from exasperated fellow Democrats from Capitol Hill and the White House.

With on-and-off closed-door talks between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, seemingly dying, the two lawmakers shocked Washington and announced agreement last month on the new, pared-down package.

Manchin won billions for carbon capture technology for the fossil fuel industries he champions, plus procedures for more oil drilling on federal lands and promises for faster energy project permitting.

Centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema also used her leverage for late concessions, eliminating planned higher taxes on hedge fund managers and helping win the drought funds.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Senate Rules Referee Weakens Dem Drug Plan In Economic Bill

Lawmakers must remove language imposing hefty penalties on drugmakers that boost their prices beyond inflation in the private insurance market.

The Senate parliamentarian on Saturday dealt a blow to Democrats’ plan for curbing drug prices but left the rest of their sprawling economic bill largely intact as party leaders prepared for first votes on a package containing many of President Joe Biden’s top domestic goals.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan rules arbiter, said lawmakers must remove language imposing hefty penalties on drugmakers that boost their prices beyond inflation in the private insurance market. Those were the bill’s chief pricing protections for the roughly 180 million people whose health coverage comes from private insurance, either through work or bought on their own.

Other major provisions were left intact, including giving Medicare the power to negotiate what it pays for pharmaceuticals for its 64 million elderly recipients, a longtime goal for Democrats. Penalties on manufacturers for exceeding inflation would apply to drugs sold to Medicare, and there is a $2,000 annual out-of-pocket cap on drug costs and free vaccines for Medicare beneficiaries.

Her rulings came as Democrats planned to begin Senate votes Saturday on their wide-ranging package addressing climate change, energy, health care costs, taxes and even deficit reduction. Party leaders have said they believe they have the unity they will need to move the legislation through the 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote and over solid Republican opposition.

“This is a major win for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said of the bill, which both parties are using in their election-year campaigns to assign blame for the worst period of inflation in four decades. “And a sad commentary on the Republican Party, as they actively fight provisions that lower costs for the American family.”

In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats “are misreading the American people’s outrage as a mandate for yet another reckless taxing and spending spree.” He said Democrats “have already robbed American families once through inflation and now their solution is to rob American families yet a second time.”

Dropping penalties on drugmakers reduces incentives on pharmaceutical companies to restrain what they charge, increasing costs for patients.

Erasing that language will cut the $288 billion in 10-year savings that the Democrats’ overall drug curbs were estimated to generate — a reduction of perhaps tens of billions of dollars, analysts have said.

Schumer said MacDonough’s decision about the price cap for private insurance was “one unfortunate ruling.” But he said the surviving drug pricing language represented “a major victory for the American people” and that the overall bill “remains largely intact.”

The ruling followed a 10-day period that saw Democrats resurrect top components of President Biden’s agenda that had seemed dead. In rapid-fire deals with Democrats’ two most unpredictable senators — first conservative Joe Manchin of West Virginia, then Arizona centrist Kyrsten Sinema — Schumer pieced together a broad package that, while a fraction of earlier, larger versions that Manchin derailed, would give the party an achievement against the backdrop of this fall’s congressional elections.

The parliamentarian also signed off on a fee on excess emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributor, from oil and gas drilling. She also let stand environmental grants to minority communities and other initiatives for reducing carbon emissions, said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Thomas Carper, D-Del.

She approved a provision requiring union-scale wages to be paid if energy efficiency projects are to qualify for tax credits, and another that would limit electric vehicle tax credits to those cars and trucks assembled in the United States.

The overall measure faces unanimous Republican opposition. But assuming Democrats fight off a nonstop “vote-a-rama” of amendments — many designed by Republicans to derail the measure — they should be able to muscle the measure through the Senate.

House passage could come when that chamber returns briefly from recess on Friday.

“What will vote-a-rama be like. It will be like hell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Friday of the approaching GOP amendments. He said that in supporting the Democratic bill, Manchin and Sinema “are empowering legislation that will make the average person’s life more difficult” by forcing up energy costs with tax increases and making it harder for companies to hire workers.

The bill offers spending and tax incentives for moving toward cleaner fuels and supporting coal with assistance for reducing carbon emissions. Expiring subsidies that help millions of people afford private insurance premiums would be extended for three years, and there is $4 billion to help Western states combat drought.

There would be a new 15% minimum tax on some corporations that earn over $1 billion annually but pay far less than the current 21% corporate tax. There would also be a 1% tax on companies that buy back their own stock, swapped in after Sinema refused to support higher taxes on private equity firm executives and hedge fund managers. The IRS budget would be pumped up to strengthen its tax collections.

While the bill’s final costs are still being determined, it overall would spend more than $300 billion over 10 years to slow climate change, which analysts say would be the country’s largest investment in that effort, and billions more on health care. It would raise more than $700 billion in taxes and from government drug cost savings, leaving about $300 billion for deficit reduction — a modest bite out of projected 10-year shortfalls of many trillions of dollars.

Democrats are using special procedures that would let them pass the measure without having to reach the 60-vote majority that legislation often needs in the Senate.

It is the parliamentarian’s job to decide whether parts of legislation must be dropped for violating those rules, which include a requirement that provisions be chiefly aimed at affecting the federal budget, not imposing new policy.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Germans Tip-Toe Up the Path to Energy Savings

AUGSBURG, Germany — Wolfgang Hübschle went into city government expecting a simple life, planning things like traditional festivals replete with lederhosen.

Instead, these days he has the unpopular task of calculating which traffic lights to shut off, how to lower temperatures in offices and swimming pools — and perhaps, if it comes to it, pulling the plug on Bavarians’ beloved but energy-intensive breweries.

Municipal officials like Mr. Hübschle, the economic adviser to the provincial Bavarian city of Augsburg, sit on the front line of a geopolitical struggle with Russia since European Union leaders agreed this week to try to reduce natural gas consumption by 15 percent, fearing that President Vladimir V. Putin could cut exports in retaliation for Europe’s support for Ukraine.

a second pipeline from Russia, until the war forced the project to be suspended.

underlined the threat this week when it reduced flows through Nord Stream 1 into Germany to just 20 percent, citing, unconvincingly for many, problems with its German-made turbines.

Roughly half of all homes in Germany are heated with gas, while a third of the country’s gas is used by industry. If the coming winter is particularly cold, a cutoff would be brutal.

reopening coal-fired power plants to replace those that burn gas and rapidly expanding infrastructure for liquefied natural gas, along with securing contracts for deliveries from Qatar and the United States.

In a recent social media post, Mr. Habeck admonished people to change their daily habits as part of the effort to reach the country’s goal of saving 20 percent.

“If you think, OK, swapping out the shower head, thawing out the freezer or turning down the heater, none of that makes a difference — you are deceiving yourself,” Mr. Habeck said. “It is an excuse to do nothing.”

Some officials have expressed concern that the government is stoking panic. And some are hoping incentives will encourage careful energy use.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to increase housing subsidies and shield renters from evictions over unpaid heating bills. This week, Munich announced an “energy bonus” of 100 euros to households that cut their annual consumption by 20 percent, and its utility company launched an energy-saving competition for customers this autumn.

Germans seem to be responding. The Federal Association of Energy and Water said the country was using almost 15 percent less gas compared to the same period last year, a trend they partly attributed to the record price of energy. Costs will increase further by the beginning of October, when the government introduces a gas surcharge.

In response, space heaters and wood ovens are selling out in many cities, and there is a long wait for mini-solar-panel units to power some home devices.

Claudia Kemfert, an energy economist with the German Institute for Economic Research, said such savings were critical but worried the country had wasted several months with appeals to citizens instead of taking more robust action with business.

Companies have shown they can reduce their gas consumption when they are not given a choice. Automaker Mercedes-Benz said on Wednesday it had trimmed 10 percent of its gas usage, and could cut as much as 50 percent while maintaining full operations.

“There is a lot we can achieve through market-based approaches, we should exhaust every option we have on that front so that we can avoid an emergency situation,” Ms. Kemfert said.

Municipal officials say they will have no way to understand how much their efforts can help until they get more data.

In Munich, capital of the southern state of Bavaria and an epicenter of German industry, the deputy mayor, Katrin Habenschaden, is skeptical.

“I honestly don’t believe that this can be compensated for, as much as I appreciate it through our efforts now to save energy.” she said. “Rather, I believe that we simply need other options or other solutions.”

As the deputy responsible for managing economic affairs, she has been helping the city with a kind of economic triage — assessing what kind of rationing different companies could face. Businesses, big and small, are courting the city, to make their case for why they should be spared.

Bavaria is of particular concern because it is home to companies that are drivers of German industry, like BMW and Siemens. The conservative regional government’s reluctance to challenge its heavy dependence on gas and push forward on renewable energies has also left it particularly vulnerable, Ms. Habenschaden, a Green, argued.

In Augsburg and Munich, local officials have requested that every city employee send their suggestions. One Augsburg civil servant pointed out the city’s two data centers were a major energy drain. They are now considering whether they can rely on just one.

More quietly, many local leaders are pondering which energy-hungry German traditions may have to be put on the chopping block, should the country be forced into energy rationing: Beer making? Christmas markets?

Mr. Hübschle said he believes Bavaria should shut down its famous breweries before letting its chemical industry face gas shortages.

Meanwhile, Rosi Steinberger, a member of Bavaria’s regional parliament, now works in a dark office to cut her consumption, and is debating whether to provoke the inevitable ire of Munich by suggesting it cancel its world-famous Oktoberfest. It is scheduled to return this fall after a two-year pandemic pause.

“I haven’t asked yet,” she said, with a nervous laugh. “But I also think that when people say there should be no taboos in what we consider — well, that’s what you have to think about.”

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Biden Calls Deal With Manchin ‘Godsend’ For U.S. Families

The Senate is expected to vote on the wide-ranging inflation measure next week.

President Joe Biden declared his support Thursday for the “historic” inflation-fighting agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and holdout Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, an expansive health care and climate change package that had eluded the White House and seemed all but lost.

President Biden said the bill will be a “godsend” for American families.

“This bill would be the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis,” President Biden said. He said it will also lower healthcare costs for millions of Americans who buy their own health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

President Biden vowed the package will not raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 a year. Instead the 15% corporate minimum tax will help fund the new costs, with extra going to deficit reduction.

He acknowledged the final product was a compromise, but was upbeat that it would win support in Congress.

“My plea is: Put politics aside. Get it done,” President Biden said. “We should pass this.”

The $739 billion package, not as much as President Biden once envisioned, remains a potentially remarkable achievement for the party, with long-sought goals of addressing health care and climate, while raising taxes on high earners and large corporations and reducing federal debt.

The Senate is expected to vote on the wide-ranging measure next week, setting up for the president and his party an unexpected victory in the runup to November elections in which their congressional control is in peril. A House vote would follow, perhaps later in August, with unanimous Republican opposition in both chambers seemingly certain.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow Senate Democrats they now have an opportunity to achieve two “hugely important” priorities on health care and climate change, if they stick together and approve a deal he brokered with Manchin.

Schumer spoke at a private meeting after the startling turnaround over an expansive agreement he and Manchin struck that had eluded them for months. The Democratic leader’s comments were relayed by a person familiar with the meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.

Manchin called the billion package a “win-win” that shouldn’t come as such a big surprise despite the long months of on-again, off-again talks. He bristled at suggestions he’d left his own party dangling when he refused to support an earlier, broader bill.

“I’ve never walked away from anything in my life,” Manchin told reporters via video chat because he is isolating with COVID-19. Manchin called it “a good bill” that would benefit the country. “It’s a Democrat and Republican bill.”

But bipartisan the bill is not.

Schumer warned his colleagues in the 50-50 Senate that final passage will be hard. With staunch GOP opposition, Democrats have no votes to spare, relying on their own razor-thin majority.

One key vote, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., was still reviewing the agreement, said spokeswoman Hannah Hurley. Sinema backed Manchin last year in insisting on making the legislation less expensive but objected to proposals to raise tax rates, and the spokeswoman referred a reporter to her comments last year supporting a corporate minimum tax.

Manchin said Thursday he had not talked to Sinema about the new compromise.

Just hours before the announcement late Wednesday, Schumer, D-N.Y., and Manchin, D-W.Va., seemed at loggerheads and headed toward a far narrower package limited — at Manchin’s insistence — to curbing pharmaceutical prices and extending federal health care subsidies. Earlier Wednesday, numerous Democrats said they were all but resigned to the more modest legislation.

There was no immediate explanation for Manchin’s abrupt willingness to back the new bolder measure. Since last year, he has used his pivotal vote in the 50-50 Senate to force President Biden and Democrats to abandon far more ambitious, expensive versions. He dragged them through months of negotiations in which leaders’ concessions to shrink the legislation proved fruitless, antagonizing the White House and most congressional Democrats.

Tellingly, Democrats called the 725-page measure “The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” because of provisions aimed at helping Americans cope with this year’s dramatically rising consumer costs. Polls show that inflation, embodied by gasoline prices that surpassed $5 per gallon before easing, has been voters’ chief concern. For months, Manchin’s opposition to larger proposals has been partly premised on his worry that they would fuel inflation.

Besides inflation, the measure seemed to offer something for many Democratic voters.

It dangled tax hikes on the wealthy and big corporations and environmental initiatives for progressives. And Manchin, an advocate for the fossil fuels his state produces, said the bill would invest in technologies for carbon-based and clean energy while also reducing methane and carbon emissions.

The measure would reduce carbon emissions by around 40% by 2030, Schumer and Manchin said. While that would miss President Biden’s 50% goal, that reduction, the measure’s climate spending and the jobs it would create are “a big deal,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., an environmental advocate who had been upset with the absence of those provisions until now.

The overall proposal is far less aspirational than the $3.5 trillion package President Biden asked Democrats to push through Congress last year, and the pared-down, roughly $2 trillion version the House approved last November after Manchin insisted on shrinking it. Even then, Manchin shot down that smaller measure the following month, asserting it would fuel inflation and was loaded with budget gimmicks.

Democrats said their proposal would raise $739 billion over the decade in new revenue, including $313 billion from a 15% corporate minimum tax. They said that would affect around 200 of the country’s largest corporations, with profits exceeding $1 billion, that currently pay under the current 21% corporate rate.

The agreement also contains $288 billion the government would save from curbing pharmaceutical prices. Those provisions would require Medicare to begin negotiating prices on a modest number of drugs, pay rebates to Medicare if their price increases exceed inflation and limit that program’s beneficiaries to $2,000 annual out-of-pocket expenses.

The deal also claims to gain $124 billion from beefing up IRS tax enforcement, and $14 billion from taxing some “carried interest” profits earned by partners in entities like private equity or hedge funds.

The measure would spend $369 billion on energy and climate change initiatives. These include consumer tax credits and rebates for buying clean-energy vehicles and encouraging home energy efficiency; tax credits for solar panel manufacturers; $30 billion in grants and loans for utilities and states to gradually convert to clean energy; and $27 billion to reduce emissions, especially in lower-income areas.

It would also aim $64 billion at extending federal subsidies for three more years for some people buying private health insurance. Those subsidies, which lower people’s premiums, would otherwise expire at year’s end.

That would leave $306 billion for debt reduction, an effort Manchin has demanded. While a substantial sum, that’s a small fraction of the trillions in cumulative deficits the government is projected to amass over the coming decade.

If Democrats can hold their troops together, GOP opposition would not matter. Democrats can prevail if they lose no more than four votes in the House and remain solidly united in the 50-50 Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote. They are using a special process that will let them pass the bill without reaching the 60 votes required for most legislation there. The chamber’s parliamentarian must verify that the bill doesn’t violate the chamber’s budget procedures, a review now underway.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Ukraine War’s Latest Victim? The Fight Against Climate Change.

BERLIN — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seemed like an unexpected opportunity for environmentalists, who had struggled to focus the world’s attention on the kind of energy independence that renewable resources can offer. With the West trying to wean itself from Russian oil and gas, the argument for solar and wind power seemed stronger than ever.

But four months into the war, the scramble to replace Russian fossil fuels has triggered the exact opposite. As the heads of the Group of 7 industrialized nations gather in the Bavarian Alps for a meeting that was supposed to cement their commitment to the fight against climate change, fossil fuels are having a wartime resurgence, with the leaders more focused on bringing down the price of oil and gas than immediately reducing their emissions.

Nations are reversing plans to stop burning coal. They are scrambling for more oil and are committing billions to building terminals for liquefied natural gas, known as L.N.G.

coal plants that had been shuttered or were scheduled to be phased out.

as top economic officials in Ukraine, say it would serve two key purposes: increasing the global supply of oil to put downward pressure on oil and gasoline prices, while reducing Russia’s oil revenue.

Proponents say it is likely that Russia would continue to produce and sell oil even at a discount because it would be easier and more economical than capping wells to cut production. Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimates that it could be in Russia’s economic interest to continue selling oil with a price cap as low as $10 a barrel.

Some proponents say it is possible that China and India would also insist on paying the discounted price, further driving down Russian revenues.

floating ones.

Critics charge that building all 12 terminals would produce an excess capacity. But even half that number would produce three-quarters of the carbon emissions Germany is allowed under international agreements, according to a recent report published by a German environmental watchdog. The terminals would be in use until 2043, far too long for Germany to become carbon neutral by 2045, as pledged by Mr. Scholz’s government.

And countries are not just investing in infrastructure at home.

Last month, Mr. Scholz was in Senegal, one of the developing countries invited to the Group of 7 summit, to discuss cooperating not just on renewables but also on gas extraction and L.N.G. production.

In promoting the Senegal gas project, analysts say, Berlin is violating its own Group of 7 commitment not to offer public financing guarantees for fossil fuel projects abroad.

These contradictions have not gone unnoticed by poorer nations, which are wondering how Group of 7 countries can push for commitments to climate targets while also investing in gas production and distribution.

One explanation is a level of lobbying among fossil fuel companies not seen for years, activists say.

“It looks to me like an attempt by the oil and gas industry to end-run the Paris Agreement,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, an advisory group in Berlin, referring to the landmark 2015 international treaty on climate change. “And I’m very worried they might succeed.”

Ms. Morgan in the German Foreign Ministry shares some of these concerns. “They’re doing everything that they can to move it forward, also in Africa,” she said of the industry. “They want to lock it in. Not just gas, but oil and gas and coal.”

But she and others are still hopeful that the Group of 7 can become a platform for tying climate goals to energy security.

Environmental and foreign policy analysts argue that the Group of 7 could support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, while pledging funds for poorer nations hit with the brunt of climate disasters.

Above all, activists warn, rich countries need to resist the temptation to react to the short-term energy shortages by once again betting on fossil fuel infrastructure.

“All the arguments are on the table now,” said Ms. Neubauer, the Fridays for Future activist. “We know exactly what fossil fuels do to the climate. We also know very well that Putin is not the only autocrat in the world. We know that no democracy can be truly free and secure as long as it depends on fossil fuel imports.”

Katrin Bennhold Bennhold reported from Berlin, and Jim Tankersley from Telfs, Austria. Erika Solomon and Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.

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