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Senate Dems are closer to passing the Inflation Reduction Act, but there's work ahead

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Senate is getting ready for a long weekend of work on what Democrats call the Inflation Reduction Act. It's a wide-ranging bill tackling climate change, manufacturing, health care, prescription drugs and taxes. And now that it's earned the blessing of Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, the last Democratic holdout, the bill has the 50 votes it needs to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated this development today.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: I'm pleased we have reached an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act that I believe will receive the support of the entire Senate Democratic Conference.

CHANG: All right. To talk more about this legislation, we're joined now by NPR's Deepa Shivaram. Hey, Deepa.

DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey there.

CHANG: All right. So we are heading into this long weekend, at least for senators. Where do things stand now? Like, what are we expecting to happen tomorrow?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, that's right. So we can definitely anticipate some late nights on the Hill this weekend. Senator Schumer says he will introduce the bill tomorrow afternoon, which triggers a few other steps because this bill is getting passed through a budget reconciliation process. So first, we're still waiting on the Senate parliamentarian to rule on the bill to make sure it can actually be passed through budget reconciliation. If that's squared away, Schumer can introduce the bill as he has planned. And once he introduces the bill, it starts up 20 hours of debate, split evenly between both sides. Now, Democrats are likely to give back most of that time, and there are reports that Republicans might as well. So it could be shorter - a shorter process than usual. And then we move to what's known as the vote-a-rama.

CHANG: Yes.

SHIVARAM: This is where senators can introduce an unlimited number of amendments to the bill, and it can go on for hours and hours. Depending on timing, vote-a-rama could start Saturday night or not start till Sunday. So we're basically just waiting to see how much time Republican lawmakers really want to drag this out.

CHANG: OK, well, speaking of Republicans, they have been staunchly opposed to this bill, like, since the very beginning, like, when President Biden outlined elements of this legislation a year ago. So what are we hearing from Senate Republicans as they head into this weekend?

SHIVARAM: Yeah. So they're not happy with it, of course. In fact, no Republican is voting for it at all. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had called it a, quote, "goodie bag for far-left environmental activists," and other Republicans are worried about other aspects of the bill as well. Some Republicans have been claiming it makes inflation worse. And that part isn't true, but a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office does say that the bill really won't help with inflation right now. They said it will have a, quote, "negligible effect on inflation" in the calendar year of 2022.

And this past week, Republicans have even been taking shots at West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who negotiated the bill behind the scenes with Schumer. Manchin is from a red state and oftentimes has been the one to tank Democrats' legislation. Now he's promoting this bill, which he's taking heat for. And another Democrat who tends to buck her party is Sinema, like we talked about. She agreed last night to move forward with the bill but had a section on narrowing the carried interest tax loophole removed, which most other Democrats had supported.

CHANG: Right. OK. Well, this has also been a fairly busy week on the Hill, with a number of bills getting passed, many of them bipartisan. That is no small thing on Capitol Hill. What do you think this moment means for Democrats, especially for President Biden?

SHIVARAM: Yeah. It's been a pretty good week for Democrats. They've gotten a lot done, between guns, confirming Sweden and Finland into NATO, the PACT Act for veterans' benefits. And you're right. A lot of it has been bipartisan. But Schumer has repeatedly said this week that Democrats are also willing to go at it alone, and that's what they're doing with this legislation this weekend. If it passes through the Senate, the House could vote on it as early as next week. And...

CHANG: OK.

SHIVARAM: ...What it means for Biden is a huge portion of his domestic agenda is getting checked off. It's not a bad look heading into the midterms, and he'll have quite a few bills to sign in the coming weeks.

CHANG: That is NPR political reporter Deepa Shivaram. Thank you, Deepa.

SHIVARAM: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF HONEYMOAN SONG, "WE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.