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Democrats should ride recent legislative wins into mid-terms

The passage by the U.S. Senate Sunday of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to soon be approved by the House, constitutes some rare good news for Americans. It represents the largest investment in fighting climate change in U.S. history, and among its other provisions, would give Medicare the right to negotiate prices on certain prescription drugs.

The joy over the bill’s passage, however, is tempered by the need to water it down to get the votes of quasi-Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. And it is sobering that Republicans are so determined to deny President Biden and Democrats any achievement with the mid-terms approaching that not a single Republican senator voted in favor of this worthy piece of legislation.

The bill would provide $369 billion over 10 years to address climate change, largely through investment in clean energy, with the goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 40 percent in the next eight years. A 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations will pay for the bill, which includes providing funding for expiring health care subsidies targeted for low- and middle-income Americans.

Congressional Republicans claim that the Inflation Reduction Act will actually fuel inflation but have not documented how. Republican-affiliated business groups have warned of the corporate tax’s grievous effect, but on Monday Goldman Sachs said the impact of the tax on big business “looks very modest” and Citigroup added that the tax would have “minimal impact” on S&P 500 profits.

A Republican Party wedded to climate change denial will never support efforts to rescue the planet from humanity. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissively declared that “Environmental regulation is a 3 percent issue,” without explaining where that number came from.

Appallingly, McConnell’s remark came in the wake of historic flooding in his home state that caused dozens of deaths and catastrophic damage. Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and President Biden will make sure that Kentucky receives the taxpayer-funded FEMA aid it needs but McConnell and his fellow Republicans will continue to block efforts to prevent future costly climate-based disasters.

While Manchin signed on to the bill, he did so at considerable cost to the climate change provisions. He insisted that the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will cut through the Appalachians in his native West Virginia, will proceed despite its cost overruns, schedule delays and adverse environmental impact. Manchin also demanded that other pipeline projects across the nation be expedited. According to the Center For Responsive Politics, Manchin is by a wide margin the Senate’s largest recipient of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, proving again the link between donations and the actions of an elected official.

Senate Democrats also agreed to exclude firms in the highly profitable private equity industry from the new minimum tax on billion-dollar corporations to get Sinema’s vote. Sinema was successfully lobbied by businesses in Arizona and in turn successfully held the legislation hostage until she got her way.

While polls indicate Democrats want a new presidential candidate in 2024, the Inflation Reduction Act is the latest in a series of achievements for President Biden, including passage of the American Rescue Plan Act benefiting state and local governments, the infrastructure plan and a gun reform measure, among others. Republicans responded to these initiatives with childish displays of pique.

Using a parliamentary procedure, Republicans blocked a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act capping the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for privately insured patients. Republican senators from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee, which have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the nation according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, voted against the cap.

Republicans notoriously blocked the so-called “burn pits” provision in the PACT Act requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to presume that certain illnesses resulted from exposure to hazardous waste in Iraq and Afghanistan. GOP senators caved a week later, as sticking it to sick veterans out of spite was apparently too much for even the radical right to take.

The party that is out of the White House traditionally does well in the mid-term elections in a president’s first term, and Republicans have designs on gaining control of the House and Senate. Democrats, however, now have tangible successes to campaign on this fall. If they succeed in November, there is hope for more accomplishments. If they don’t, the achievements of recent months may be the last for America for some time.

Bill Everhart is the former editorial page editor of The Berkshire Eagle and is an occasional Eagle contributor. 

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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