Parliamentarian scrub of Democrats’ tax and spending bill nearly complete as Senate braces for slog

Parliamentarian scrub of Democrats’ tax and spending bill nearly complete as Senate braces for slog

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the Senate parliamentarian’s review of the Democrats’ $740 billion health care, climate, tax and spending package had “largely concluded” as the chamber gaveled in for a rare weekend session.

The chamber on Saturday is set to begin what is expected to be a battle between the two parties over a key Biden administration agenda item before departing for the Senate‘s August recess.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said that key Democratic priorities in the so-called Inflation Reduction Act remain “largely intact” following a scrub by the chamber’s nonpartisan referee, Elizabeth MacDonough, to ensure the legislation meets the Senate’s complex budget reconciliation rules.

“Now that our meetings with the parliamentarian have largely concluded, we have a bill before us that can win the support of all 50 Democrats,” he said. “The bill when passed will meet all of our goals, fighting climate change, lowering health care costs, closing tax loopholes abused by the wealthy and reducing the deficit.”

Under Senate rules governing the reconciliation process, Mr. Schumer needs to secure a simple majority in the evenly split chamber rather than meet the normal 60-vote threshold.

“This is a major win for the American people and a sad commentary on the Republican Party as they actively fight provisions that lower costs for the American family,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Senate parliamentarian OKs most of Dems’ drug price controls

With the legislation now poised for debate on the Senate floor, Democrats have reached a key threshold after months of tense back-and-forth to hammer out the contours of one of President Biden’s top priorities.

“For many years, many in Washington promised to address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation, only to fall short,” Mr. Schumer said. But when previous efforts have fallen short, this Senate majority is on the verge of succeeding.”

Mr. Schumer’s optimism comes on the heels of a ruling forcing Democrats to remove from the legislation a measure that would have forced drugmakers to pay rebates for products they sell to private insurers if their prices exceed inflation.

Drug manufacturers would still have to pay penalties for those drugs bought by Medicare.

Other provisions targeting drug prices, including measures enabling Medicare to negotiate drug costs and capping seniors’ out-of-pocket costs, survived the scrub.

Mr. Schumer is expected to formally introduce the bill later Saturday kicking off what is expected to be a slog before the legislation crosses the finish line.

Critics say the Democrats’ bill does little to fight inflation and introduces job-killing climate provisions and tax hikes that will stymie economic growth.

“Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob Americans yet a second time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on the Senate floor Saturday. “Democrats want to ram through hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes and hundreds of billions of dollars in excess spending.”

Republicans plan to put up a tough fight against the bill through what’s known as a “vote-a-rama” — an hourslong process that forces the full chamber to consider changes to the budget legislation. Part of the strategy is to put Democrats on the defensive on a range of hot-button topics.

At the end of the votes on amendments, which could start as early as this weekend, the majority party passes a final amendment negating any previous one that was passed.

Senate Republicans have pledged to make the process as tough as possible in an unlikely, last-ditch bid to pressure enough of their Democratic colleagues to abandon the bill.

“It will be like hell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told reporters Friday. “They deserve this.”

“They are empowering legislation that will make the average person’s life more difficult,” he said. “I am hoping we can come up with proposals that will make sense to a few of them and they will abandon this jihad they are on to tax and spend.”

Mr. Graham was joined by several GOP colleagues in ripping into the bill ahead of a series of votes expected over the weekend.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said the bill will “have no discernible beneficial impact on inflation,” a point the Democrats dispute.

“This is a big tax increase on job creators in this country that won’t do anything to address the inflation crisis in this country and the economic recession that we’re already in,” Mr. Thune said. “The American people deserve better. We’re going to do everything we can to defeat this bill.”