WASHINGTON Senate Democrats plan to hold a procedural vote Saturday on their key domestic policy bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) announced Thursday.
If all 50 Senate Democrats vote to move the measure forward, the bill should get a final vote as soon as possible early next week.
The legislation would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs with the pharmaceutical industry, a hugely popular policy change that Democrats have been pushing for years. The bill would invest more than $300 billion in green energy subsidies and tax breaks, ultimately saving the government hundreds of billions by funding stricter IRS enforcement and imposing a new minimum tax on the most profitable companies.
Its approval would cover an unusually productive session of Congress and give President Joe Biden a major victory ahead of the midterm elections in November.
“We have big things here,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told HuffPost on Thursday.
But the Democrats have yet to get the backing of Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is reportedly push to make changesincluding removing a provision that would narrow a tax loophole associated with hedge fund managers and private equity executives.
Sinema declined to talk to reporters on Thursday. She was spotted talking on the Senate floor with Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who wrote the bill largely in secret negotiations with Schumer.
sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also said he is disappointed by the prescription drug provision, but has not said he would vote no. “I want it to improve,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Another obstacle is the Senate MP — a behind-the-scenes Senate official who decides whether the bill’s various provisions are allowed as part of the Senate’s secretive “budget reconciliation” process. Reconciliation allows Democrats to pass their bill with a simple majority, meaning if all 50 Democrats agree, they don’t need a single Republican vote.
Policies considered “strange” by the parliamentarian reconciliation rules should be thrown out. The MP last year forced Democrats to repeal a federal minimum wage increase as part of a reconciliation bill.
GOP senators have objected to just about every provision in the bill to the MP in hopes of killing or significantly weakening its structure. Democrats are still awaiting the fate of their prescription drug proposal, as well as several revenue stipulations.
Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he is optimistic Democrats will come out of the “glove” of reconciliation with most of their bill intact. He praised Elizabeth MacDonough, who has been a parliamentarian since 2012, as a ‘straight shooter’.
Democrats had initially hoped to pass a much broader social policy bill known as “Build Back Better,” but failed to get Manchin’s agreement last year on things like paid time off and monthly child support. Negotiations between Manchin and Schumer, however, continued, even as it appeared Democrats could not unite around a more modest bill.
The bill’s new name is a nod to Manchin’s enduring concern about rising prices. A number of leading economists have said the measure would slow inflation. The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday:but that the legislation this year would have a “negligible effect” on inflation, but could lessen next year.
After the first vote to pass the bill on Saturday, there will be debate until 8 p.m., followed by a marathon session known as a “vote-a-rama,” where senators will vote on an unlimited number of amendments. That process usually takes another 20 hours.
Republicans hope to convince Sinema and other moderates to join them in voting for some of their non-binding amendments that aim to expose Democratic divisions ahead of the midterm elections.
Schumer appeared to have failed the voting plan on Thursday, saying only, “We expect to vote Saturday afternoon on the motion to proceed with the reconciliation legislation.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.