US & Canada

Sweeping budget package passes US Senate, House to take up measure

Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to avoid the need for 60 votes to clear a Republican filibuster.

Washington: After a year of negotiations, impasses and political maneuvering, the US Senate has passed an economic package, a top priority for the Democrats, that would pump hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy programs, raise taxes on corporations and lower health care costs.

On Sunday night, the Senate voted 50-50 along party lines and Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to send the measure to the House, which is planning to return briefly from August recess to take it up Friday, reports dpa news agency.

Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to avoid the need for 60 votes to clear a Republican filibuster.

But even a simple majority vote required unanimity in the Democratic caucus, which they had been unable to achieve until this month.

Before the final passage, the Senate spent more than 15 hours voting on amendments and dilatory motions during a free-for-all process known as “vote-a-rama”.

There were a total of 37 votes along the way before final passage.

An official Congressional Budget Office “score” wasn’t yet available.

But based on preliminary information and previous estimates, the bill would spend more than $450 billion over 10 years on energy and climate programmes and tax breaks, a three-year extension of more generous subsidies for purchasing health insurance on public exchanges, expanded Medicare prescription drug benefits and caps on monthly insulin copays.

The package would be more than offset through tax increases on corporations, enhanced IRS tax enforcement, Medicare savings from allowing price negotiations directly with pharmaceutical companies on certain drugs and new taxes and fees on oil and gas companies.

On net, the package is expected to reduce deficits by roughly $300 billion over a decade.

President Joe Biden, who has called the bill “historic”, has pledged to return the US to the international stage on climate action.

In April last year, he pledged to slash US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030.

Last month, he announced $2.2 billion to help build infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather and natural disasters.


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