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    Friday, December 02, 2022

    Biden signs sweeping bill to tackle climate change, lower health-care costs

    WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, an ambitious measure that aims to tamp down on inflation, lower prescription drug prices, tackle climate change, reduce the deficit and impose a minimum tax on profits of the largest corporations.

    At a bill signing ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, Biden praised the legislation as among the most significant measures in the history of the country.

    "Let me say from the start: With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost," Biden said.

    His administration had begun amid "a dark time in America," Biden added, citing the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and threats to democracy.

    "And yet we've not wavered, we've not flinched and we've not given in," Biden said. "Instead, we're delivering results for the American people. We didn't tear down. We built up. We didn't look back. We look forward. And today - today offers further proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real."

    The House passed the bill Friday in a 220-207 vote, days after the Senate narrowly passed it on a party-line vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaker. The bill's passage marked one of the most successful legislative efforts by congressional Democrats this session, ahead of contentious midterm elections - and also one that seemed increasingly unlikely for about a year and a half.

    Last year, a larger $2 trillion spending package known as the Build Back Better Act stalled in Congress after hitting opposition from moderate Democratic senators. After weeks of negotiations with the White House, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said in December that he could not move forward with the bill.

    But last month, Manchin announced that he had reached a surprise deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on what would become known as the Inflation Reduction Act. Although smaller than the Build Back Better plan, the new legislation aimed to achieve many of the same goals, including spending about $370 billion on climate change and clean-energy production.

    On Tuesday, Biden said signing the bill into law was something he had looked forward to doing for 18 months. At one point, he glanced at Manchin and quipped, "Joe, I never had a doubt," to some laughter. After Biden inked his signature - and Schumer proclaimed, "It's now law!" - the president handed the pen he used to Manchin and shook his hand.

    On Tuesday, Schumer personally thanked Manchin "for working hard to get this done," and credited Biden and the Democratic caucus for their persistence. The president, Schumer added, knew precisely when to step in and when to let negotiations play out.

    "I am confident this bill will endure as one of the greatest legislative feats in decades: it will lower costs, create millions of good-paying jobs, and is the boldest climate bill ever," Schumer said. "Now in normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement, but to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing."

    In a dig at former president Donald Trump, Schumer also thanked Biden for restoring "dignity, respect and a sense of action back to the Oval Office."

    "After four years of a president who relished creating chaos, American are seeing what it looks like to have a president and a Congress that's focused on delivering results that make their lives better," Schumer said.

    According to the White House, Biden will in the coming weeks hold a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as travel across the country to promote the ways the new law is expected to help Americans. The White House is also planning an event Sept. 6 to celebrate the bill's enactment.

    The Inflation Reduction Act would put about $370 billion into combating climate change and bolstering U.S. energy production, using incentives for private companies to produce more renewable energy and for households to transform their energy use and consumption. The bill would also allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs and extend health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.

    To pay for the spending, the bill would raise hundreds of billions in revenue through new tax provisions - the biggest of which will fall on the country's large corporations. It would also give the badly underfunded Internal Revenue Service its biggest budget increase in its history - a provision House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized as one that would result in "an army of IRS agents to spy on your bank accounts."

    As White House officials have repeatedly said over the last week, Biden emphasized again Tuesday that no one making under $400,000 a year would pay "a penny more" in taxes. He also made an implicit pitch for Democrats in November's midterm elections, noting that no Republicans had voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.

    "Let's be clear: In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests," Biden said. "Every single Republican in Congress voted against lowering prescription drug prices, against lowering health-care costs, against the fair tax system. Every single Republican, every single one, voted against tackling the climate crisis, against lowering our energy costs, against creating good-paying jobs.

    "My fellow Americans, that's the choice we face," he added. "We can protect the already powerful or show the courage to build a future where everybody has an even shot."

    At a bill enrollment ceremony for the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called it "a glorious day" and noted the bill's passage was coming on the heels of Biden signing several other key pieces of legislation into law, including one aimed at expanding aid to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service. She also criticized Republicans for uniting in opposition to the bill and said Democrats would continue to fight for provisions that had been dropped as a compromise, such as Medicare expansion and free universal prekindergarten.

    "This legislation is historic, it's transformative, and it is really a cause for celebration," Pelosi said.

    The Washington Post's Jeff Stein, Maxine Joselow, Rachel Roubein and John Wagner contributed to this report.

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