A divided Senate voted Saturday to start debating Democrats’ election-year economic bill, boosting the sprawling collection of President Joe Biden’s priorities on climate, energy, health and taxes past its initial test as it starts moving through Congress.
In a preview of votes expected on a mountain of amendments, united Democrats pushed the legislation through the evenly divided chamber by 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie and overcoming unanimous Republican opposition. The package, a dwindled version of earlier multitrillion-dollar measures that Democrats failed to advance, has become a partisan battleground over inflation, gasoline prices and other issues that polls show are driving voters.
The House, where Democrats have a slender majority, could give it final approval next Friday when lawmakers plan to return to Washington.
The vote came after the Senate parliamentarian gave a thumbs-up to most of Democrats’ revised 755-page bill. But Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan rules arbiter, said Democrats had to drop a significant part of their plan for curbing drug prices.
MacDonough said Democrats violated Senate budget rules with language imposing hefty penalties on drug makers who boost their prices beyond inflation in the private insurance market. Those were the bill’s chief pricing protections for the roughly 180 million people whose health coverage comes from private insurance, either through work or bought on their own.
Other pharmaceutical provisions were left intact, including giving Medicare the power to negotiate what it pays for drugs for its 64 million elderly recipients, a longtime Democratic aspiration. Penalties on manufacturers for exceeding inflation would apply to drugs sold to Medicare, and there is a $2,000 annual out-of-pocket cap on drug costs and free vaccines for Medicare beneficiaries.
“The time is now to move forward with a big, bold package for the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “This historic bill will reduce inflation, lower costs, fight climate change. It’s time to move this nation forward.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats “are misreading the American people’s outrage as a mandate for yet another reckless taxing and spending spree.” He said Democrats “have already robbed American families once through inflation and now their solution is to rob American families yet a second time.”
Saturday’s vote capped a startling 10-day period that saw Democrats resurrect top components of Biden’s agenda that had seemed dead. In rapid-fire deals with Democrats’ two most unpredictable senators — first conservative Joe Manchin of West Virginia, then Arizona centrist Kyrsten Sinema — Schumer pieced together a package that would give the party an achievement against the backdrop of this fall’s congressional elections.
A White House statement said the legislation “would help tackle today’s most pressing economic challenges, make our economy stronger for decades to come, and position the United States to be the world’s leader in clean energy.”
Assuming Democrats fight off a nonstop “vote-a-rama” of amendments — many designed by Republicans to derail the measure — they should be able to muscle the measure through the Senate.
“What will vote-a-rama be like? It will be like hell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said of the approaching GOP amendments. He said that in supporting the Democratic bill, Manchin and Sinema “are empowering legislation that will make the average person’s life more difficult” by forcing up energy costs with tax increases and making it harder for companies to hire workers.
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Indiana lawmakers passed and the governor signed a near-total ban on abortion on Friday, overcoming division among Republicans and protests from Democrats to become the first state to draw up and approve sweeping new limits on the procedure since Roe v. Wade was struck down in June.
The law’s passage came just three days after voters in Kansas, another conservative Midwestern state, overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have stripped abortion rights protections from their State Constitution, a result seen nationally as a sign of unease with abortion bans. And it came despite some Indiana Republicans opposing the measure for going too far, and others voting no because of its exceptions.
The end of Roe was the culmination of decades of work by conservatives, opening the door for states to severely restrict abortion or ban it entirely. Some states prepared in advance with abortion bans that were triggered by the fall of Roe. Lawmakers in other conservative states said they would consider more restrictions.
But, at least in the first weeks since that decision, Republicans have moved slowly and have struggled to speak with a unified voice on what comes next. Lawmakers in South Carolina and West Virginia have weighed but taken no final action on proposed bans. Officials in Iowa, Florida, Nebraska and other conservative states have so far not taken legislative action. And especially in the last few weeks, some Republican politicians have recalibrated their messaging on the issue.
“West Virginia tried it, and they stepped back from the ledge. Kansas tried it, and the voters resoundingly rejected it,” State Representative Justin Moed, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said on the House floor before voting against the bill. “Why is that? Because up until now it has just been a theory. It was easy for people to say they were pro-life. It was easy to see things so black and white. But now, that theory has become reality, and the consequences of the views are more real.”
The Indiana bill — which bans abortion from conception except in some cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or when the pregnant woman faces risk of death or certain severe health risks — was signed into law within minutes of its final passage late Friday night by Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican who had encouraged legislators to consider new abortion limits during a special session that he called.
“These actions followed long days of hearings filled with sobering and personal testimony from citizens and elected representatives on this emotional and complex topic,” Mr. Holcomb said in a statement. “Ultimately, those voices shaped and informed the final contents of the legislation and its carefully negotiated exceptions to address some of the unthinkable circumstances a woman or unborn child might face.”
Beyond those limited exceptions, the new law will end legal abortion in Indiana next month. The procedure is currently allowed at up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. Some Republicans have indicated that they expect the law to be challenged in court.
“If this isn’t a government issue — protecting life — I don’t know what is,” said Representative John Young, a Republican who supported the measure. He added: “I know the exceptions are not enough for some and too much for others, but it’s a good balance.”
The law’s passage came after two weeks of emotional testimony and bitter debates in the Statehouse. Even though Republicans hold commanding majorities in both chambers, the bill’s fate did not always seem secure. When a Senate committee considered an initial version of the bill last week, no one showed up to testify in support of it: The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana called it a “cruel, dangerous bill,” Indiana Right to Life described it as “weak and troubling,” and a parade of residents with differing views on abortion all urged lawmakers to reject it.
The debate was supercharged by the case of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had traveled to Indiana for an abortion after she was raped. The abortion provider in that case, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, became a target of some on the right.
Abortion rights protesters were a regular presence at the Statehouse during the session, sometimes chanting “Let us vote!” or “Church and state!” so loudly from the hallway that it could be difficult to hear lawmakers. Several Democrats invoked the vote in Kansas, in which 59 percent of voters decided to preserve abortion rights, as an example of the political risk Republicans were taking. Democrats suggested putting the issue to a nonbinding statewide vote in Indiana, which Republicans rejected.
“Judging by the results I saw in Kansas the other day,” said Representative Phil GiaQuinta, a Democrat who opposed the Indiana bill, “independents, Democrats and Republicans by their votes demonstrated what is most important to them, and me, and that is our personal freedoms and liberty.”
Todd Huston, the Republican speaker of the Indiana House, said he was pleased with the final version of the law. But asked about the protests in Indianapolis and the vote in Kansas, he acknowledged that many disagreed.
“We’ve talked about the fact that voters have an opportunity to vote, and if they’re displeased, they’ll have that opportunity both in November and in future years,” Mr. Huston said.
If you don't like the total abortion ban, vote them out!
Vote them out of a state legislature where anti-choice, women as property Republicans have a majority of state House seats with 20-point locks and another 15% with merely double digit margins, and the state Senate is even more gerrymandered.
Vote them out when Democrats would need to win by 18-22 points just to break even.The only debate in a one-party fascist state like Indiana is how quickly the fascism happens in taking rights away from women, Black and brown folk, LGBTQ+ folk, the state's Jewish and Muslim populations, and more.