Senate passes reconciliation bill with $40 billion for ag
The Senate on Sunday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, also known as the reconciliation bill, with all Democrats supporting it and all Republicans opposed.
The $740 billion bill is mostly known for its health and climate provisions, but it includes $40 billion to increase spending on agriculture programs. The House is expected to return to Washington soon, probably this week, to pass the bill and send it to President Biden for his signature.
“With the passage of this historic bill, Americans will see their energy costs go down while we tackle the urgent threats we face every day from the climate crisis,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
“We are equipping farmers, foresters, and rural communities with the necessary tools to be a part of the solution. At the same time, we are investing in good-paying clean energy jobs to grow small towns and rural economies.”
The climate-smart agriculture, forestry and rural energy programs in the Inflation Reduction Act are supported by more than 1,700 farm groups, companies, environmental advocates, leading economists, local elected officials and municipalities, and trade associations, Stabenow added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the bill a “historic piece of legislation” from the Senate floor on Saturday, saying it is one of the most “comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” National Journal noted in an analysis.
“The Inflation Reduction Act is a groundbreaking bill for the American people,” Schumer continued. “It will help every citizen of this country and make America a much better place.”
Biden said, “I want to thank Leader Schumer and every member of the Senate Democratic caucus for supporting this bill. It required many compromises. Doing important things almost always does.
“The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, a former senator who delivered the tie-breaking 51st vote, said that in addition to helping with health care costs and inflation the bill is important for “what it’s going to mean in terms of the climate crisis.”
“We’ve got wildfires burning in California. We’ve got floods and hurricanes. A $300 — over $300 — billion investment, and what we must do as America to lead on this issue. And the crisis is evident; it is front and center every night on the evening news.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., each issued a statement praising passage of the legislation.
Hoyer has said that the House will be called back into session to vote on the legislation, but did not say when members will be recalled. Hoyer has previously said members will have 24 hours to return to Washington for the vote.
In a statement from her San Francisco district office, Pelosi said, “Congratulations to Senate Democrats for the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. This landmark legislation is a major step forward in Democrats’ fight to put people over politics: lowering kitchen table costs, reducing the cost of Americans’ health care, creating millions of good-paying jobs and addressing the climate crisis.
“Today is a victory for America’s families and for our planet. This landmark legislation, which includes key House Democratic proposals, will rein in health care costs for Americans across the country: extending Affordable Care Act subsidies and empowering Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
“By defending America’s energy security and reducing carbon pollution by nearly 40 percent by the end of the decade, it will slash energy costs and help save the planet. This legislation will also fight inflation — including with an historic investment in paying down the deficit — while being fully paid for by making the largest corporations pay their fair share.
“The House will return and move swiftly to send this bill to the president’s desk — proudly building a healthier, cleaner, fairer future for all Americans,” Pelosi said.
Hoyer said, “In spite of Republicans’ efforts to block it, the United States Senate today passed one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years, which will help ease inflation, lower health care costs for Americans, and deliver on Democrats’ promises to tackle the climate crisis in a way that lowers Americans’ energy costs and strengthens our economy.”
“The Inflation Reduction Act will accomplish these goals while also reducing the deficit, requiring the wealthiest corporations to pay their fair share, and ensuring that anyone earning less than $400,000 a year doesn’t pay a penny more in taxes.
“After years of persistence fighting to lower health costs, this legislation finally gives Medicare the tools and authority to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, caps seniors out of pocket drug costs at $2,000 annually, and extends the highly effective ACA subsidies that Democrats enacted through the American Rescue Plan last year which have greatly expanded access to affordable coverage.
“Now that the Senate has taken action, the House will return to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Once again, just as we did with the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the CHIPS and Science Act, our Democratic House majority is putting people over politics to send President Biden major legislation to grow our economy and ensure our people have the tools they need to Make It In America,” Hoyer said.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, “The Inflation Reduction Act is a historic piece of legislation that realizes President Biden’s vision to bring down healthcare and prescription drug costs for families, reduce our deficit, and make our tax code fairer.”
“It also marks the largest federal investment in clean energy in U.S. history and is critical to our ongoing efforts to fight climate change and secure America’s energy future.
“By providing additional resources for renewable energy production and NOAA’s coastal resilience programs, climate modeling, and forecasting systems, this bill will enable communities to better prepare, respond, and adapt to a changing climate. This is a monumental accomplishment. I applaud the Senate for getting this done and urge the House to get it to President Biden’s desk quickly.”
Before the vote, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who had been sidelined after a fall when Democrats needed all 50 votes to pass some bills, said, “After a month away, I was proud to return to the United States Senate this weekend and cast many votes in support of the Inflation Reduction Act, and to vote for final passage.”
“It is time to say yes, and actually do something essential for the American people. The time for speeches, pontificating, and showmanship is over. It is time for action. The Inflation Reduction Act is real action. And action that is long overdue.”
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who had expressed mixed feelings about the bill, said, “This reconciliation bill goes nowhere near far enough in addressing the problems facing struggling working families. But it is a step forward and I was happy to support it.”
“At a time when we face the existential crisis of climate change the most significant part of this bill is an unprecedented $300 billion investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, including a $7 billion solar roof top proposal that I introduced. This bill could help increase U.S. solar energy by 500 percent and more than double wind energy by 2035,” Sanders said. “That is no small thing.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, both said a $4 billion provision would help achieve agreement on how to distribute water from the Colorado River.
Feinstein said, “This funding will help preserve water deliveries from the Colorado River, which supplies water for 700,000 acres of farmland and more than 19 million residents in the region. To maintain this water resource in the face of climate change, the state must proactively reduce water usage to keep Lake Mead above critical elevations.”
“In order to achieve the goal of reducing Colorado River withdrawals, the bill provides temporary financial assistance to farmers who voluntarily fallow their lands as they adjust to reduced levels of river flow. It also funds water conservation and efficiency projects to keep more water in the river.
These efforts will help California reach an agreement with all seven Colorado River states on reducing water use while preserving long-term access to Colorado River water supplies. This will help all water users as they adjust to drier conditions within the Colorado River Basin by transitioning to more sustainable water uses like water recycling; stormwater capture and reuse; desalination; more efficient use of water by farmers; infrastructure improvements; and increased water conservation and urban water efficiency.
“As climate change continues to stress our water resources, we must do more to ensure we have enough water to meet our state’s needs,” Feinstein said.
“The inclusion of $4 billion in the reconciliation bill to address the historic drought in the West is critical for communities throughout the region, particularly in California.”
Newsom said: “This funding is critical to stabilize the Colorado River system and accelerate projects at the Salton Sea to protect public health and the environment.”
“Thanks to our California senators for working with us on this priority and helping to lead the charge on this essential investment.”
Mike Lavender, interim policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, “The Senate’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act marks an unprecedented step toward addressing climate change and building a climate-resilient food and farm system.”
“For farmers, ranchers, and communities, this is cause for celebration. In the months ahead, NSAC looks forward to ensuring that these historic investments live up to their full potential through successful implementation.
“We encourage the House to move swiftly in order to send the bill to the president’s desk.”
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson said, “Several provisions in this bill provide electric co-ops with crucial new tools as they navigate the ongoing energy transition and prepare for a future that depends on more electricity to power the American economy.”
Matheson said the provisions of particular interest to electric cooperatives are:
▪ “Direct Pay Tax Incentives: Under the proposal, electric cooperatives — for the first time — would have direct access to energy innovation tax credits, and parity with industry counterparts, when they deploy new energy technologies, including carbon capture, nuclear, energy storage and traditional renewables.
“The direct payment would be available for all existing technologies for which clean energy tax credits are currently accessible and creates a direct payment for a new slate of technologies.
▪ Grants for Clean Energy Systems: A new voluntary $9.7 billion grant and loan program designed specifically for electric cooperatives that purchase or build new clean energy systems.
“The wide range of eligible projects — including carbon capture, renewable energy, storage, nuclear, and generation and transmission efficiency improvements — allows each cooperative to determine its path based on its unique circumstances,” Matheson said. “Co-ops would be able to receive an award for as much as 25% of their project cost, with a maximum amount of $970 million for any one entity.”
The American Association of Port Authorities noted that the bill includes $3 billion over five years to establish a new grant program to install electrified equipment and reduce emission at ports.
In a signal of debates to come in the next farm bill, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the Agriculture Committee ranking member, introduced an amendment that would have required able-bodied adults without dependents to either work or participate in a work program at least 20 hours per week to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
“These work requirements were established on a bipartisan basis,” Boozman said.
“They were waived for the COVID emergency on a bipartisan basis. They should be reinstated with bipartisan support now that COVID restrictions have largely ended.
“Job openings are still near a historic high, contributing to our ongoing supply chain bottleneck. It is time for these requirements to be enforced so that able-bodied adults return to the workforce.”
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member, said, “New energy taxes and Green New Deal-style subsidies will worsen our current energy crisis and weaken our nation’s economic and national security.”
“We need to unleash our domestic energy production and get our debt and deficit under control, while positioning our farmers and ranchers to continue to produce the highest quality lowest cost food supply in the world. We need to provide real, meaningful price relief to the American people but this bill that the Democrats pushed through using the budget reconciliation process doesn’t do that, instead it increases taxes and spending,” Hoeven said.
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