Senators advance Biden's $430 billion bill
Democrats hope passage will give them a boost in midterm elections
Published: Aug 07, 2022 10:58 PM
The US Senate on Sunday repelled attempts to amend a $430 billion measure sought by President Joe Biden, as Democrats forged ahead with their bill to control climate change and cut prescription drug costs for the elderly, while tightening enforcement on tax payments from corporations and the wealthy.

The Senate, working over the weekend to pass a bill central to Biden's domestic agenda, was destined to vote into the early morning hours to pass the bill before starting an ­August recess.

"The time is now to move forward with a big, bold package for the American people," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the start of debate on Saturday night. He said the legislation contains "the boldest clean energy package in American history" to fight climate change while reducing consumer costs for some medicines and energy.

After spending several hours debating the legislation, senators dug in for a "vote-a-rama" in which Democratic and Republican amendments were offered in rapid-fire.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, a former presidential candidate aligned with Democrats, was soundly defeated on the first amendment offered. It would have vastly expanded the number of prescription drugs eligible for price negotiation under the government's Medicare insurance plan for the elderly. The 99-1 vote against the amendment drew only Sanders' support.

The Senate also overwhelmingly defeated a bid by Sanders to expand Medicare coverage for spectacles, hearing aids and dental care.

This wide-ranging bill, negotiated over several months by Democrats, would allow Medicare to begin negotiating in 2026 with the pharmaceutical industry over prices on a limited number of prescription drug prices as a way of reducing costs. 

Other portions of the bill would reduce US carbon emissions by 40 percent in 2030 through federal incentives for the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles and other "green" energy, with the goal of lowering energy prices overall at a time of high inflation.

Democrats drew harsh attacks from Republicans over the legislation's $430 billion in new spending and more than $740 billion in new revenues.  

Democrats said their bill has deep support among voters. They hope its passage in the Senate and House of Representatives by the end of this week will help Democratic candidates in the November 8 midterm elections at a time when Biden, their party leader, suffers from anemic public approval ratings.