Updated August 5, 2022 - 4:08 pm
WASHINGTON – Both Nevada’s U.S. senators say they support the Democratic health care, climate and tax bill heading toward Senate debate on Saturday.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes prescription drug price caps, subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and clean energy proposals that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said are critical to Nevada.
A vote on the bill was made possible by a surprise deal struck between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and holdout U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with addition of more than $300 billion for deficit reduction
Schumer scheduled a weekend vote after U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., won a concession to remove tax code policy changes targeting wealthy investors known as the “carried interest” loophole. Keeping the current tax policy won her support.
Democrats are moving forward on the bill under so-called budget reconciliation rules, which require a simple majority to pass. But since the Senate is evenly divided, Democrats need every single member of their caucus to vote yes to pass the measure, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote.
Republicans are unified in their opposition.
Cortez Masto, who is running for re-election in November, said she supports the bill because of numerous items in the legislation she has long championed.
“I support many of the provisions in it, because I’ve been fighting for them,” Cortez Masto told the Review-Journal.
“This is what I have said we should be doing which is lowering costs for families,” she said. “It has prescription drug negotiation, which is the No. 1 thing I hear in our state.”
Health care and green power
Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug costs would lower the prices for seniors. The bill would also cap out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year.
The bill also includes a three-year extension of Affordable Care Act health-insurance subsidies. More than 355,000 Nevadans gained health care coverage under the act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Sen. Jacky Rosen worked to increase the subsidy extension from two years to three years.
In addition to the health care provisions, Rosen said the package contains tax credits that will “create even more good-paying clean energy jobs in our state as we tackle the climate crisis.”
Rosen has been an ardent supporter of Nevada’s growing solar energy industry, which counts more than 6,170 jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Cortez Masto also has called for clean energy initiatives.
“Nevada is a state that is leading in clean energy investments around solar, geothermal and wind,” she said.
The bill also includes $4 billion for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for drought initiatives on the Colorado River.
“This funding in the Inflation Reduction Act will serve as an important resource for Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, and the work we’ve done to include it will help secure the West’s water future,” Cortez Masto said in a statement Friday.
Cutting the cost
The overall bill was pared down significantly since it was first proposed by Democrats and the Biden administration at more than $2 trillion.
The slimmed-down bill would provide $300 billion for deficit reduction and $360 billion in energy credits, offset by $790 billion in savings and projected tax revenues from a 15-percent minimum corporate tax and increased enforcement of current tax laws, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan, fiscal policy non-profit group.
Rosen said some programs beneficial to Nevada were lost from the original legislation.
“There’s still a lot more Congress can do to give hardworking families some breathing room, like bringing down the cost of child care, enacting paid family leave, and making housing more available and affordable,” Rosen told the Review-Journal.
Still, passage of the retooled bill faces solid Republican opposition over tax code reforms.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Democrats’ “job-killing tax hikes in the middle of a recession that they themselves created” would leave middle-class families to shoulder the economic burden.
“This bill is a massive goody bag for far-left environmental activists at the expense of working families,” McConnell said Wednesday from the Senate floor.
“Who in their right mind raises taxes on these businesses as we’re entering a recession? It makes no sense,” asked U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Brady said the bill would also “unleash 80,000 new IRS agents on family farms and businesses.”
Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the Republican nominee who is challenging Cortez Masto in November, said the bill won’t relieve inflation but instead would exacerbate it.
“Our country is now in a recession which Catherine Cortez Masto helped cause yet refuses to acknowledge,” Laxalt said in a statement.
“According to multiple accredited studies and experts, Democrats’ reckless tax and spend proposal won’t bring down prices, and instead it will raise taxes for Nevadans making as low as $30,000 per year, fund the hiring of 87,000 IRS agents to further harass Nevada families, and fuel our soaring inflation by spending money we don’t have. Even Joe Manchin, Barack Obama, and Chuck Schumer have all previously said that raising taxes during a recession is bad policy. Does Cortez Masto not agree to that sentiment?
“Right now, Cortez Masto has the opportunity to break her 95 percent voting record with Joe Biden which is why I am calling on her to vote NO against this radical spending bill. Times are tough and the last thing Nevadans need right now are more taxes, higher inflation, and less money in their pockets.”
The centrist Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the Democratic bill would provide significant deficit reduction and restore IRS staffing to collect taxes owed. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, only 84 percent of taxes owed in 2019 were collected.
Manchin told reporters that no family earning less than $400,000 a year would see a tax increase. He argued that imposing a 15-percent minimum corporate tax was only fair for businesses that currently pay less than middle class workers shell out each year in income tax.
The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill at noon Saturday, begin debate on the legislation and unlimited amendments that Republicans have vowed to offer. A series of votes on the amendments is expected late Saturday in what is known as a “vote-a-rama” before a vote on final passage.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has notified members that she will call the chamber back into session to vote on the bill following Senate passage.