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Delaware Senators react to passage of Inflation Reduction Act

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Rachel Sawicki
/
Delaware Public Media
Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons give reaction to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the Senate.

The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act Sunday, leaving Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons happy to be part of delivering a major piece of legislation.

The Act passed 51-50 entirely along party lines with Vice President Kamala Harris delivering the tie breaking vote. It is far from the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act that stalled early this year, but Carper says it is a step in the right direction.

“This is a change that's coming, and the question is can we get ready for it?" Carper said. "I don't want to leave anybody behind in West Virginia or any other state, but to look out for them as well.”

Democrats had to rework the bill to gain the votes of two centrist holdouts: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who voiced spending concerns, and a portion narrowing the carried interest tax loophole was cut to get Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to sign on.

The Act includes $369 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and $64 billion to extend the Affordable Care Act into 2025, all while reducing the deficit by $300 billion by enacting a new tax on large corporations.

“This is fully paid for," Coons said. "Companies making more than a billion dollars a year are going to have to pay a minimum 15% tax.”

Carper endorsed the $369 billion investment in combating climate change, the largest in history, saying it will create thousands of jobs.

“When Donald Trump heard the term global warming, the word that came to mind for [him] was 'hoax,'" Carper said. "And Joe Biden said the word that comes to mind for him when he hears climate change is 'jobs.'”

In Delaware, he says the money will help extend the Port of Wilmington and move the Cape May-Lewes ferry from diesel engines to electric.

However, there are benefits for the fossil fuel industry included as well. The bill requires the U.S. Department of the Interior to lease 2 million acres in federal lands onshore and 60 million acres offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Alaska, each year for oil and gas development. But Carper says that fossil fuels are still a necessity for now.

"We have tens of millions of gas and diesel powered vehicles in this country," Carper said. "Folks will keep those vehicles and average of 10 to 15 years, so there's going to be need to be fossil fuels to help power our economy. The question is, when people retire those vehicles or when they're thinking about making a change, are we going to provide the kind of incentives and make it easy for them to charge their vehicles? Or actually provide them with hydrogen for a hydrogen powered vehicle?"

The bill also allows Medicare to start negotiating prescription drug prices in 2026, starting with just 10 drugs, and will go up to 20 by 2029.

“This is going to for the first time allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices," Coons said. "There's more than 200,000 Delawareans for Medicare beneficiaries today. It puts a cap on Out of pocket costs for those who rely on Medicare and that's going to save between 900 and $1,000 a year on their prescriptions for all those Delawareans and all the Americans who rely on Medicare."

The bill received intense criticism from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who says it does nothing to address issues that Americans are dealing with right now, including affordable housing, childcare, student loans, and other inequities. But Coons and Carper say they trust the economists who endorse it, including dozens of Nobel Prize winners and finalists according to Coons.

The House will reconvene later this week and is expected to pass the bill.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.