Dems send landmark climate, tax and health care bill to Biden’s desk

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Democrats have notched their biggest victory since taking full control of Washington 19 months ago. The November fragrance of their late political bloom remains to be seen.

Every House Democrat on Friday evening gave final approval, along party lines, to a health care, climate and tax bill, delivering on a key campaign promise of Joe Biden’s presidency and capping more than a year of talks on the Hill.

The legislation represents the largest investment in addressing climate change in U.S. history, allows Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the costliest prescription drugs and extends health care subsidies through the 2024 election. Biden is expected to swiftly sign the bill.

Minutes after voting, progressive Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.) summed up the day like this: “Just when you thought nothing big would happen, turned out that something big could happen ... it’s a great day.”

Republicans sharply opposed the package, which is financed largely by tax increases on large corporations and would reduce the U.S. deficit over time, according to nonpartisan analysis.

“I’ve been saying for a long time now that Joe Biden is to this country what Harry Truman was back in the 1940s,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, while acknowledging that the bill isn’t everything Democrats wanted: “But I’ve always said a half loaf is better than no loaf. You come back and get the other half if we can have a successful election in November and get the numbers we need.”

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) was more blunt in his Friday floor speech: “It’s a big effing deal.”

Of course, it’s uncertain whether one bill is enough to turn around the historic headwinds and inflation angst that have put the House majority out of reach for Democrats this fall and imperiled their control of the Senate, according to most polls. And the party must now sell the bill to voters who won’t see much of its benefits for years — not to mention its own progressive base, where there’s keen awareness of how many priorities got dropped.

Even so, three months before Election Day, many party lawmakers are the most upbeat they’ve been in months about their chances to defy, or at least temper, the GOP’s advantage.

“I do think we have a really good story to tell. And we need to sing it from every rooftop over the next couple of months,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Democrats walked a winding and occasionally treacherous path to this moment, pressing past months of internal tension between liberals and centrists over the scope of the bill once called “Build Back Better” and now redesigned as the “Inflation Reduction Act.” Now that their legislation is on the verge of becoming law, the terrain ahead could be similarly tough without an aggressive push to promote it.

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