US president Joe Biden has signed the Democrats’ landmark climate change and healthcare bill into law.
The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion (€368 billion) over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients.
It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for healthcare insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.
The hope is it will deliver what he has called the “final piece” of Mr Biden’s pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.
Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act was a major accomplishment for the Biden administration, and marks the first time the United States has passed legislation specifically geared towards lowering its carbon emissions.
“With this law, the American people won, and the special interests lost,” the president said as he signed the legislation in a White House ceremony
He called it proof for “the American people that democracy still works in America, notwithstanding ... all the talk of its demise, not just for the privileged few, but for all of us”.
The act will see investment in programmes to speed the transition into energy and climate programs, most of which are meant to speed the transition towards renewable sources. “This bill is the biggest step forward on climate ever,” Mr Biden said.
It will also extend health insurance subsidies, and expand coverage under government healthcare programs.
In a triumphant signing event at the White House, Mr Biden pointed to the law as proof that democracy — no matter how long or messy the process — can still deliver for voters in the United States.
The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with vice-president Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.
“In normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during the White House ceremony.
“But to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing.”
Mr Biden signed the bill into law during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside holiday in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
He plans to hold a larger “celebration” for the legislation on September 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.
The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for Mr Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers.
With Mr Biden’s approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms.
The president (79) aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a re-election bid. — Agencies