By Richard Cowan and Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Democrats on Saturday were set to push ahead on a bill that would address key elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda – tackling climate change, lowering the cost of energy and elderly people’s medications and forcing some corporations and wealthy Americans to pay more taxes.
The Senate parliamentarian determined that the lion’s share of the healthcare provisions in the $430 billion bill could be passed with only a simple majority, bypassing a filibuster rule requiring 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to advance most legislation and enabling Democrats to pass it over Republican objections, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The Senate began its rare weekend session at around noon (1600 GMT). Saturday will kick off an arduous process that could extend into early next week, with senators offering amendment after amendment in a time-consuming “vote-a-rama.”
Democrats hope that the legislation will give a boost to their candidates in the Nov. 8 midterm elections in which Biden’s party is in an uphill battle to retain its narrow control of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Democrats cast the legislation as a vehicle to combat inflation, a prime concern of U.S. voters this year.
“Democrats have received extremely good news,” Schumer said in the statement. “Medicare will finally be allowed to negotiate drug prices. … This is a major victory for the American people.”
Medicare is the government health insurance program for the elderly and certain Americans with disabilities.
There are three main parts to the tax provisions in the bill: a 15% minimum tax on corporations and the closing of loopholes that the wealthy can use to avoid paying taxes; tougher IRS enforcement; and a new excise tax on stock buybacks.
The legislation has $430 billion in new spending along with raising more than $740 …read more