USA: Senate passes broad plan for climate and health, victory for Biden

USA: Senate passes broad plan for climate and health, victory for Biden

After 18 months of negotiations and a marathon night of debates, the US Senate adopted Joe Biden’s grand plan on climate and health on Sunday, offering a significant milestone victory to the president, less than 100 days before crucial elections.

By their votes alone, the Democrats approved this plan of more than $430 billion in investments, which is heading to the House of Representatives for a final vote next week, before being signed into law by Joe Biden.

“This bill will change America for decades to come,” assured Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, his voice breaking just after the vote, greeted by thunderous applause in his camp.

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

The leader of the Republicans in the Senate Mitch McConnell accused the Democrats of wanting to “double 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 committed in the United States for the climate — $ 370 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.

“Many compromises had to be made. Doing important things almost always requires it,” Joe Biden stressed in a statement, urging the House of Representatives to adopt the text without waiting.

– “Missed opportunity” –

“The Senate is finally on the same page as the public to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis,” but, “in the future, more actions are needed,” Johanna Kreilick, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an NGO dealing in particular with environmental issues, reacted in a statement.

With this reform, the installation of solar panels will be supported at 30%, and the tax credit will go up to $ 7,500 for the purchase of an electric car.

Car manufacturers welcome measures that will “help accelerate the conversion” of the country’s industry, but deplore that “tax credit requirements” make most models “ineligible,” according to John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a group of American and foreign manufacturers representing almost all cars sold in the United States.

“This is a missed opportunity at a crucial moment” that “jeopardizes our collective goal of 40 to 50% sales of electric vehicles by 2030,” he regretted.

This reform must also make it possible to strengthen the resilience of forests in the face of fires. Several billion dollars in tax credits will also be proposed to the most polluting industries to assist them in their energy transition, a measure strongly criticized by the left wing of the party.

Having come to power with huge reform projects, Joe Biden saw them buried, resurrected, and then buried again by a very moderate senator from his camp, Joe Manchin. The very thin Democratic majority in the Senate offers the elected official from West Virginia, a state known for its coal mines, a quasi-veto right.

– “Vote-a-rama” –

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

On Saturday, senators finally began debating the text in the chamber.

In the evening, they entered a marathon procedure called “vote-a-rama”, during which, with drawn lines, they proposed dozens of amendments for fifteen hours in a row and demanded a vote on each one.

The opportunity for the Republican opposition, which considers the Biden plan too expensive, and for the Democratic left wing, which wanted it wider, to present their grievances.

An influential left-wing senator, Bernie Sanders has presented several amendments intended to strengthen the social aspect of the text, which has been significantly trimmed in recent months.

The text provides for $ 64 billion in investments in health and the gradual reduction in the price of certain medicines, up to ten times more expensive than in other rich countries.

But the progressives had to abandon their ambitions for free public kindergartens and universities and better care for the elderly.

“Millions of retirees are going to continue to have rotten teeth and not receive the dentures, hearing aids or glasses they deserve,” Mr. Sanders criticized from the chamber.

In parallel with these massive investments, the bill intends to reduce the public deficit with a new minimum tax of 15% for all companies whose profit exceeds one billion dollars, in order to prevent some large companies from using tax niches that allowed them to pay much less than the theoretical rate.

According to estimates, this measure could generate more than $ 258 billion in revenue for the US federal state over the next 10 years.

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