It looked, for a while, as if Joe Biden’s ambitious climate agenda was dead in the water, thanks to conservative Democratic holdouts like Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who often prevent the party from having a real majority in the Senate. But with a few compromises for private equity (for Sinema) and the fossil fuel industry (for Manchin), the party was able to pull the two on board and pass the most ambitious climate and energy bill in U.S. history—investing $369 billion to cut climate pollution down 40 percent by 2030.
“This is a planetary emergency, and this is the first time that the federal government has taken action that is worthy of the moment,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said, reportedly choking back tears, after Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to pass the bill. “This is the biggest climate action that any country has ever taken, and now I can look my kids in the eye and say we’re really doing something about climate.”
HuffPost’s Igor Bobic reported that the Democrats were “jubilant” after the vote.
The bill is called the Inflation Reduction Act. In addition to cutting carbon emissions, it caps drug prices for seniors, imposes a 15 percent tax on billion-dollar corporations, and offers tax incentives to buy electric cars. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted, it doesn’t do much to reduce inflation. Sanders was annoyed, of course, at the concessions the party had to make to get Manchin and Sinema on board—namely, reducing the spending and tax increases.
“Am I disappointed in that? I surely am,” Sanders told the New York Times Friday. “On the other hand, what you’ve got to weigh is that the future of the Earth is at stake.” Ultimately, he concluded, the bill is “nothing to sneeze at.”
Fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) agreed that passing something on climate, even if smaller than she wanted, was far better than passing nothing. “This will matter enormously to 10s of millions of people across the country,” she said after the vote. “This is America’s first real push to fight back in the climate crisis.”
The bill now moves to the House for final passage, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to have little trouble getting the votes to push it through. The package is certainly a massive win—a relief, really—for Biden and the Democrats ahead of the midterms, as it had looked for a while as if Manchin and Sinema were going to keep them from accomplishing any of their lofty agenda at all.