Congress Eyes Finish Line for Freight-Centric Budget Bill
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Debate on a multibillion-dollar budget bill targeting supply chain connectivity concerns, clean energy initiatives and economic incentives remains front-and-center on Capitol Hill.
A vote on the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act is expected in the U.S. House of Representatives on Aug. 12. That follows Senate passage of the bill, which occurred on Aug. 7 along party lines.
House approval of the Senate-passed bill would advance the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. Its enactment would greenlight key pillars of the president’s Build Back Better social economic and infrastructure agenda. (AUG. 12 UPDATE: House passes bill | AUG. 16 UPDATE: Biden signs bill)
Congressional Democrats, governing in the majority from both chambers, have sought to debate the legislation for more than a year.
“This bill makes a tremendous difference at the kitchen table of America’s families,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told colleagues prior to the House vote. The speaker highlighted aspects of the bill, such as provisions on negotiating the costs of prescription drugs, certain health care subsidies, deficit reduction initiatives and severe-weather infrastructure resilience programs.
Specifically, the budget bill would dedicate nearly $30 billion for a greenhouse gas reduction fund. That funding would pave the way for nonprofits and state agencies to leverage private investments for climate change-centric projects. The bill also would dedicate $3 billion to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions at most ports. And, it would dedicate $1 billion to upgrade heavy-duty vehicles with zero-emitting capabilities.
Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act includes a methane emissions reduction program and grants for a climate justice initiative.
“Passing the Inflation Reduction Act represents a monumental step forward for our nation and our planet. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have helped craft and pass this landmark legislation to improve the lives of the American people and lead us to a brighter future,” said Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), soon after the bill’s 50-50 passage in the Senate.
“Amid unrelenting heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather, the Inflation Reduction Act represents the most significant climate legislation in history to pass the Senate,” Carper continued, “This legislation will unleash the potential of the American clean energy industry, drive down greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy costs for families, and create millions of good-paying jobs across our country.”
Congressional Republicans, all of whom opposed the legislation in the Senate, questioned the objectives of most proposals. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took aim at progressive environmental goals referred to as a Green New Deal.
“Democrats’ response to the energy crisis they’ve exacerbated is a war on American fossil fuel to fund Green New Deal giveaways for their rich friends,” McConnell said this month. “And their response to the runaway inflation they’ve created is a bill that experts say will not meaningfully cut inflation at all.”
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Meanwhile, the White House has endorsed the legislation. Biden, who this month has enacted comprehensive semiconductor manufacturing and veterans benefits packages, anticipates signing into law this scaled-back version of his Build Back Better agenda.
“This bill also makes the largest investment ever in combating the existential crisis of climate change. It addresses the climate crisis and strengthens our energy security, creating jobs manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles in America with American workers,” the president said soon after the Senate vote.
“This was very, very important, and historic, many have said, because of the kind of work that it has addressed that needs to be done that has been generational and has gone without this kind of leadership for such a long time,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, whose vote in the Senate advanced the bill to the House.