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Senate pulls an all-nighter to negotiate Inflation Reduction Act

ALINA SELYUKH, HOST:

And while you were sleeping...

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Senators voting in the affirmative - Barrasso, Blackburn, Blunt, Boozman...

SELYUKH: ...Bleary-eyed senators and congressional staff worked through the night and the early morning...

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: My motion would simply prohibit the IRS from using these billions of dollars to add...

SELYUKH: ...Republicans and Democrats voting on various motions and amendments to the Inflation Reduction Act.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: The Senator from Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Mr. President, this motion is meant to delay or kill this bill.

SELYUKH: It's a process and formally known as vote-a-rama. The Senate is expected to do a final vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping health care and climate bill, sometime today. It's expected to pass along party lines in the equally divided chamber, with Vice President Harris casting the decisive vote. Joining me now is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Alina.

SELYUKH: What shape is this bill in now?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, Republicans and Democrats, as you noted, have been going back and forth with the amendments all night, and they're still going. But in the process, the Senate took a big step toward approving the Democrats' plan and help resurrect President Biden's agenda. Now, yesterday, the Senate parliamentarian, you know, who knows all the rules, had them remove some language requiring fees to help curb drug prices. But most of the package was left intact. Republicans argue the legislation will hurt the economy and the tax increases on corporations will slow job development, and they forced this series of votes to test Democrats' staying power. Of course, if it passes, as expected, it goes to the House, where Democratic leaders plan to bring members of their chamber back to Washington on Friday to vote on the bill. And then it's to Biden's desk.

SELYUKH: And once it gets to his desk, how much of a feather would it be in his cap, so to speak?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, a big one. You know, let's remember, it was only a few weeks ago that Biden was conceding defeat on the proposal and talking about possibly declaring a climate emergency. I mean, this bill essentially rose out of the ashes, you know, giving new life to Biden's domestic agenda, you know, especially as it relates to the climate. You know, and if Democrats stick together - and they do appear to be in lockstep - their hope is that this will give them something to campaign on before the midterms.

SELYUKH: More Americans disapprove of the job President Biden's been doing than approve, and it's been like this for a year, since the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan. Will Biden continue to be a drag on Democrats' midterm hopes?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, it's still early to say anything too definitive, but so far it's only been a small bump. You know, but let's be clear - it's been a great run for the president. I mean, it's not just the spending plan. There was also the passage of a gun bill, the semiconductor bill, both with bipartisan support, plus the president's announcement last week of the death of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, you know, after the U.S. strike in Kabul. What's unclear right now, though, is whether uncertainties that voters have had, you know, over the last few months are baked in. So far, what appears to be motivating voters more - in Democrats' favor, that is - is concern about abortion rights after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

SELYUKH: And there's also the big question of former President Trump's influence in the midterms and whether he announces his intention to run again in 2024. He spoke last night in Dallas at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Is there any more clarity on his plans?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. The former president left a strong impression that he's going to run again. He gave a long speech that was part campaign speech, part gripe session, where he complained about being persecuted, and he teased the crowd about running again. You know, he delivered the same line that he did a few weeks ago at an event here in Washington that he ran twice, ran once - pardon me, ran twice, won twice, and that he may have to do it again. It's not true, but, you know, the crowd ate it up. You know, he's very popular with this group. And he won an unofficial straw poll of attendees about who should run in 2024.

SELYUKH: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordonez. Thank you so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.