Science

US: Senate passes sweeping climate and health plan, Biden wins – Sciences et Avenir

After 18 months of negotiations and a long night of debate, the US Senate on Sunday passed Joe Biden’s grand climate and health plan, giving the president a landmark victory less than 100 days before a crucial election.

By their vote alone, the Democrats approved this more than $430 billion investment plan, which will go to the House of Representatives for a final vote next week before it is signed into law by Joe Biden.

“This bill will change America for decades to come,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, his voice trembling immediately after the vote, met with thunderous applause in his camp.

All Republican senators voted against the text, dubbed the “Cut Inflation Act”, which they instead accuse of generating unnecessary government spending.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of wanting to “doubling down on their economic disaster.”

The result of difficult negotiations with the right wing of the Democratic Party, the envelope includes the largest investment ever made in the United States for climate — $370 billion to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.

“We had to make a lot of compromises. They almost always require the implementation of important cases,” Joe Biden said in a statement, urging the House of Representatives to pass the text without delay.

– “Missed Opportunity” –

“The Senate is finally on the same wavelength as the public to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis,” but “more action is needed going forward,” Johanna Kreilik, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a press release. (UCS), a non-governmental organization dealing with, inter alia, environmental issues.

Joe Biden drives a Ford F-150 electric car in Dearborn, Michigan on May 18, 2021 (AFP/Archive – Nicholas Kamm)

With this reform, solar installations will be covered by 30%, and the tax credit will reach up to $7,500 for the purchase of an electric car.

Automakers welcome the measures that will “help accelerate the transformation” of the country’s industry, but lament that “tax credit requirements” make most models “unacceptable,” according to John Bozzella, CEO of Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a group of U.S. and foreign manufacturers representing almost all cars sold in the USA.

“This is a missed opportunity at a critical time” that “jeopardizes our overall goal of 40 to 50% EV sales by 2030,” he laments.

This reform should also improve the resilience of forests to fires. Several billion dollars in tax breaks will also be offered to the most polluting industries to help them switch to energy, a measure heavily criticized by the left wing of the party.

Flames from the Caldor Fire devastate several homes in California on August 30, 2021 (AFP - JOSH EDELSON)Flames from the Caldor Fire devastate several homes in California on August 30, 2021 (AFP – JOSH EDELSON)

Having come to power with grandiose reform projects, Joe Biden saw them buried, resurrected, and then buried again by a very moderate senator from his camp, Joe Manchin. A very thin Democratic Senate majority offers an elected representative of West Virginia, a state famous for its coal mines, a quasi-veto power.

– “Vote-a-rama” –

At the end of July, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate finally managed to wring out a compromise from Mr. Manchin.

On Saturday, the senators finally began discussing the text in a half-cycle.

In the evening, they entered into a marathon procedure called “vote-a-frame”, during which, with painted features, for fifteen hours in a row, they proposed dozens of amendments and required a vote on each.

An opportunity for the Republican opposition, which sees the Biden plan as too expensive, and for the left wing of Democrats, who wanted it more broadly, to voice their grievances.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in New York State, April 24, 2022 (AFP/Archive - Kena Betancourt)U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in New York State, April 24, 2022 (AFP/Archive – Kena Betancourt)

The influential left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced several amendments designed to strengthen the social aspect of the text, which has been severely curtailed in recent months.

The text calls for $64 billion in investment in health care and a gradual reduction in the price of some medicines, up to ten times more expensive than in other rich countries.

But the Progressives had to give up their ambitions for free public kindergartens and universities and better care for the elderly.

“Millions of retirees will continue to have rotten teeth and not get the dentures, hearing aids or glasses they deserve,” Sanders criticized from the half-cycle.

Parallel to this massive investment, the bill intends to cut the government deficit with a new minimum tax of 15% for all companies whose profits exceed one billion dollars, to prevent some large companies from exploiting tax loopholes that have allowed them to pay much less than the theoretical value.

The measure is estimated to generate more than $258 billion in US federal revenue over the next 10 years.

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