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Kamala Harris’ vote saves Biden’s climate and welfare package in Senate

It was an internal party struggle: the US Senate passed a climate and social package worth billions with a wafer-thin majority of Democrats.

A year and a half after President Joe Biden took office, the US Senate passed its multi-billion dollar climate and social package. The package, which provides around $370 billion (about 363 billion euros) for energy security and climate protection and $64 billion for health care, was passed with the votes of the Democrats on Sunday. Due to the rapidly rising rate of inflation in the USA, it was dubbed the “Inflation Reduction Act”. The approval is a major achievement for Biden, who has so far failed to deliver on the major reforms promised when he took office.

The vote on the reform package, which Biden says will bring “groundbreaking changes for working families,” was made possible because the Democrats surprisingly reached an internal party agreement at the end of July. Conservative wing Senator Joe Manchin has given up his opposition to a significantly scaled-down version of last year’s reform package.

Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who blocked the package with Manchin last year, announced her support for the new law a few days ago. This was extremely important, since the Democrats could not afford a single dissenter given the wafer-thin majority in the Senate. “The road has been long, difficult and winding,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer shortly before the vote.

Vice President cast casting vote

Democrats and Republicans each provide 50 senators, and in the event of a stalemate, Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as Senate President, casts the deciding vote with her vote. All Democrats plus Harris voted for the climate and social package on Sunday, so that it could be passed despite the unanimous rejection of the Republican senators.

Biden was pleased with the decision. “It required a lot of compromises,” said the President. “That’s almost always the case with important things.” Now the House of Representatives must also “pass the legislative package as soon as possible,” the President demanded. He looks forward to putting it into effect by signing it.

Republicans criticize law

After Senate approval, the bill goes back to the House of Representatives next week, where Democrats have a narrow majority. A few months before the congressional midterm elections in November, passing the law, even in its slimmed down version, would be a great success for the president and his party.

Republicans are also heavily critical of the new package. “We will do what we can to prevent this legislation from happening,” Republican Senator John Thune said on Friday. But Republicans’ options are limited as long as there are no dissenters within the Democrats. However, Republicans could try to prolong the process with amendments.

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