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 How the battle over the Democrats’ climate, tax and health bill will play out
by Alexander Bolton - 08/05/22 4:11 PM ET

Senate Democrats are girding themselves for a battle royal with Republicans over a 700-plus-page bill that will reform the tax code, tackle climate change, lower drug costs and reduce the deficit in hopes of delivering what would become President Biden’s centerpiece legislative achievement. 

While the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Democrats enacted last year was a bigger bill in terms of dollars spent, the Inflation Reduction Act will deliver on what Democrats have promised for years. 

It would require profitable corporations to pay more in taxes, reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change, lower the price of many prescription drugs and preserve the affordability of Affordable Care Act health plans. 

The legislation will move under special budget reconciliation rules that will allow Democrats to avoid a GOP filibuster and pass it with a simple majority. But to stay in compliance with the reconciliation rules, the legislation must be strictly focused on spending, revenues or the federal debt limit. 

Significant policy changes that have only a tangential impact on spending or revenues are violations of the Senate’s Byrd Rule — named after former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

Saturday’s schedule

Senators say there are a lot of unanswered questions heading into the debate, but they have a general idea of how it will play out over the weekend. 

The Senate will convene at noon on Saturday and hold a vote at 12:30 p.m. on a motion to discharge a nominee to serve as assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency out of committee. This will serve as an attendance vote to make sure all 50 members of the Democratic caucus are present.

Eighty-two-year-old Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has missed weeks of votes at the Capitol after falling and breaking his hip in June, is expected to be back on the floor for votes.

At some point later in the day, the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed to the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to break down strictly along party lines. 

Leaders on Friday said they expected all 50 Senate Democrats and all 50 Senate Republicans to be present for the opening vote, which means Vice President Harris will be on hand to break a 50-50 tie. Harris also voted to break the tie on the motion to proceed to the American Rescue Plan in March of last year. 

That would then trigger up to 20 hours of debate on the bill, which could stretch late into the evening or past midnight Saturday. The 20 hours of debate would be evenly divided between the parties. 

At some point, Schumer will have to finish negotiating some of the provisions of the bill that were still unresolved Friday afternoon, such as money requested by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to improve her state’s drought resiliency.

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