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Inflation and climate change tackled in new Senate deal that Biden calls 'historic'

In remarks from the White House Thursday, President Biden said the Inflation Reduction Act would reduce pressure on the economy from rising inflation.
Susan Walsh
/
AP
In remarks from the White House Thursday, President Biden said the Inflation Reduction Act would reduce pressure on the economy from rising inflation.

President Biden hailed as "historic" the Senate Democrats' agreement on a bill to fight the climate crisis and decrease the cost of prescription drugs — key pieces of his domestic agenda.

"It's a big deal," Biden said of the bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act, at the White House Thursday. He said the legislation also would both reduce inflationary pressure on the economy and serve as the most important investment the nation has ever made in energy security.

"With this legislation, we're facing up to some of our biggest problems and we're taking a giant step forward as a nation," he said.

He noted that both former Vice President Al Gore, a champion of climate change reform, and Larry Summers, who has been critical of the Biden administration's economic approach, expressed support for the bill.

Agreement on the legislation took months after Senate Democratic holdout Joe Machin backtracked his support for the larger bill earlier in July, saying he was hesitant to approve more spending when inflation was so high. Manchin had opposed parts of the bill that included investments in combating climate change and tax provisions, leaving a slimmed-down, health care-focused bill instead.

But now, with the West Virginia senator's surprise reversal Wednesday, the bill appears to be moving forward.

"I want to thank [Majority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer and Joe Manchin for their extraordinary effort it took to reach this result," Biden said.

The bill includes about $300 billion in deficit reduction and $370 billion in energy and climate spending provisions. It would also raise about $313 billion from a new 15% corporate minimum tax.

The president noted that the bill does not include several parts of his Build Back Better agenda that he says he will continue to fight for — provisions that would make childcare and elder care more affordable, reduce the cost of college and pre-school and expand Medicaid.

"This bill is far from perfect. It's a compromise. But it's often how progress is made," Biden said. "My message to Congress is this: This is the strongest bill you can pass" to reduce inflation, combat climate crisis and reduce the burden facing lower and middle class families, he said.

"Pass it for America."

The Senate could take up the bill as early as next week. Democrats are hoping to bring it to the floor using a budget process called reconciliation to avoid a Republican filibuster. Support from all 50 Senate Democrats would be necessary to pass it.

Manchin says Biden was not involved in bill negotiations

Manchin said Thursday morning he did not confer with Biden about the deal as negotiations evolved.

"President Biden was not involved," Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval. "I was not going to bring the president in. I didn't think it was fair to bring him in. And this thing could very well could not have happened at all. It could have absolutely gone sideways."

And he pushed back on rhetoric that he walked away from the bill a few weeks ago.

"I'm not walking away from anything. I'm just being very cautious," he said, pointing to his concerns about increasing inflation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
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