US House of Representatives passes Inflation Reduction Act, promoting historic climate investment

Wisconsin lawmakers were divided over the Inflation Reduction Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, with the legislation including a historic investment in efforts to combat climate change. The legislation now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The bill provides about $375 billion over 10 years to help industry and consumers transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources. This includes about $4 billion for Western countries to increase their drought resilience. The proposal is a watered-down version of Biden’s $2 trillion plan to increase spending on social programs and climate change, and the legislation aims to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The bill provides about $64 billion to expand the Affordable Care Act for about 13 million people who need help paying health care premiums for insurance purchased on the private market.

“It will make us more energy independent and less dirty,” Pocan said.

U.S. House Democrat Gwen Moore said the legislation reduces health care costsand “Wisconsinans will feel its impact.” The bill caps prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 starting in 2025, and people will pay a maximum of $35 a month for insulin to treat diabetes.

“We are making these big investments by ensuring that corporations that have often flouted the system pay a minimal share of taxes and by going after wealthy tax evaders who have too often shirked their responsibilities,” Pocan added.

The bill raises about $740 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, and Democrats say that includes about $222 billion raised by a 15 percent corporate floor tax. During a debate, U.S. House Republican Brian Steele said he opposed raising taxes under the legislation.

Republican U.S. House Representative Tom Tiffany called the bill a “good tax and spending limit” amid record inflation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill’s impact on inflation could be positive or negative, and its effects are largely uncertain.

About $300 billion in revenue under the legislation would be used to reduce the budget deficit. The deficit reduction is also small compared to the $16 trillion in new debt expected over the next decade.

Republicans criticized Democrats for the bill, calling it the “Expansion Inflation Act.” One GOP lawmaker said the bill was an “armed robbery of taxpayers.”

The bill invests $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service to hire workers and about $46 billion of that to strengthen law enforcement. Republicans said the proposal would increase audits of people who earn less than $400,000 each year, as well as lead to the hiring of nearly 87,000 new court employees.

“First of all, it’s a lot more people watching Americans and anyone who wants a free society should be afraid of that,” said U.S. House Republican Glenn Grotman.

Politifact reported that the 87,000 figure refers to employees across the agency, adding that many of those employees will be looking to stabilize the staff following budget cuts and a wave of planned retirements. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement Thursday that the administration has committed not to increase audit rates on Americans who earn less than $400,000 a year.

Grotman also said the bill contained too much corporate welfare, citing billions in tax credits for the green industry. He also took issue with increased spending in the bill for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at a time when he said Americans were being “suffocated” by inflation.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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