Sleep-deprived Sen. Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) headed straight for New York for a victory lap on Monday after steering a historically significant climate change bill through a gauntlet in the equally divided Senate .
Fresh off his hard-fought victory on Capitol Hill, the Brooklyn Democratic leader boasted of achievements forged during a rare weekend all-nighter in the Senate, including massive investment in clean energy and provisions aimed at reducing prescription drug costs.
“For years people have wanted this done,” Schumer sang at a press conference in Midtown Manhattan. He promised the bill would force Big Pharma to cut costs for American families.
“Prices will come down,” Schumer promised, standing by a poster touting the benefits of the recently passed Cut Inflation Act, and holding props that included a red apple (representing the benefits for New York) and his signature flip phone (symbolizing the intense negotiations that resulted in the deal).
Democrats blocked the Senate-estimated $740 billion package by a 51-50 vote on Sunday, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the deciding vote on broad Republican resistance.
The bill, which went through the complicated reconciliation process, raises corporate taxes, includes hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change and would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.
The bill is on track to lower health care costs for 3.7 million seniors in New York and create some 1.5 million jobs in the United States, according to Schumer’s office.
But Schumer said he wants Americans to take particular note of the legislation’s potential effect on soaring prices. Economists say they expect the bill to fight inflation, however slowly.
“Longer term, climate is the biggest challenge we face,” Schumer told reporters. “But the most immediate is inflation.”
“Some of the things we’re doing on climate will reduce people’s costs – electricity bills, appliances,” he added.
The House is expected to pass the legislation on Friday. President Biden, hungry for another legislative achievement before midterm, is expected to sign the bill into law soon after.
Schumer revived the bill by sealing a surprise compromise with moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.V.), who appeared to have killed him weeks earlier.
“Joe Manchin and I had some very heated arguments,” Schumer said. “But we have always been respectful.”
Schumer said the two made the deal with little input from Biden, who has seen his relationship with Manchin poisoned over the past year.
“Under Joe Manchin’s request, which I honored, the White House didn’t know any of the details until everyone knew,” Schumer said.
The bill amounts to a slimmed down version of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which was once valued at $3 trillion.
Clean energy legislation omits measures such as universal early education, free community colleges and paid family leave. Manchin worried that a major overhaul of the social safety net would cost too much and drive up inflation.
Despite the West Virginia moderate’s support for the final package, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Minority Leader, said in a statement Sunday that Democrats had focused on “gifts from the Green New Deal” and dismissed environmental regulation as a “3% problem”.
The new bill is expected to give Democrats a major boost ahead of the midterm elections in November. Schumer hopes to cling on to control of the Senate, though Republicans are favored to take the House of Representatives.
The prospects for Democrats in the Senate appear to have improved markedly this summer, as furor over the conservative Supreme Court ruling ending abortion rights was met with a series of legislative successes that began with passage of a bipartisan gun safety bill.
Gas prices are falling, the labor market looks exceptionally robust and Biden – whose underwater approval ratings have started to rise – has just thrown into a fight with COVID.
“People would say: Democrats can’t do anything,” Schumer said. “Well, the last six weeks have been one of the most productive six weeks in legislative history in decades.”