Oregon reps split by party on federal budget vote
Oregon's four Democrats voted for — and the lone Republican against — U.S. House approval of billions for tax incentives for carbon-free energy, continued subsidies for individual health insurance premiums, and a new minimum tax on corporations earning more than $1 billion.
A party-line vote of 220 to 207 on Friday, Aug. 12, sent the bill (HR 5376) to President Joe Biden, who expects to sign it this week.
The $700 billion over the next decade is less than a third of the $2.2 trillion that the House originally approved for Biden's Build Back Better plan back on Nov. 19. But it stalled in the evenly divided Senate, which finally passed a stripped-down version Aug. 7 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Democrats were able to pass it with simple majorities as a budget reconciliation measure, which can take place once during the federal budget year.
Known as the Inflation Reduction Act, the bill contains $370 billion in tax incentives for carbon-free energy — such as credits for purchase of electric vehicles and installation of solar panels — and other programs to mitigate the effects of climate change. Some of the tax incentives are 10-year extensions of existing breaks.
It also enables the federal government to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers for selected drugs in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for some with disabilities. It caps out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for Medicare recipients to $2,000 annually, and for insulin, to $35 per month.
It extends for three more years subsidies that will enable households to pay individual health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010.
The costs will be offset by a new 15% minimum tax on corporations earning more than $1 billion in annual income, and a new 1% excise tax on corporate stock buybacks.
But removed from the bill were other spending items for education, child care and housing.
Statements from Oregon's three metro-area representatives in the U.S. House follow. Earl Blumenauer sits on the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax legislation. Suzanne Bonamici sits on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Kurt Schrader sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care legislation in the House.
Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Springfield, voted yes; Cliff Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, voted no.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, 3rd District:
"Today, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a historic investment in our nation's health, climate, and economy. I came to Congress with a mission to make the federal government a better partner to local communities so they can be more livable, healthy, and economically secure. With the passage of this legislation, we have made unprecedented progress toward fulfilling the fundamental premise of this mission.
"The Inflation Reduction Act is the single largest investment in climate action in our nation's history, and it could not come soon enough. Oregonians know all too well that the climate crisis is here and rapidly getting worse. This legislation will deliver $385 billion in energy and climate investments, including investments in solar and wind energy, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, clean manufacturing, and vulnerable communities most impacted by environmental degradation. In total, it will put the United States on a path toward a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.
"I am proud that several climate-related provisions I advocated for were included in this package. These include the production tax credit and investment tax credit to incentivize wind and solar projects; direct pay and renewable energy credit transferability provisions to make project financing more efficient; legislation to reinstate the Superfund Tax which ensures that polluters are responsible for cleaning up after themselves; clean transportation incentives, including an expanded electric vehicle credit for new and used vehicles; an expanded credit to charge e-bikes and e-scooters; credits to electrify commercial fleets; and incentives to make commercial buildings more energy efficient and sustainable. Each of these provisions will help reduce carbon emissions and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.
"The Inflation Reduction Act will also reduce health care spending by $288 billion over the next decade. It will bring down the price of prescription drugs, cap Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 a year, penalize drug companies for outrageous price hikes, and lower Affordable Care Act premiums for millions of Americans.
"Finally, the package enacts a 15% corporate book income minimum tax to ensure corporations pay what they owe. It bolsters funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), providing $3.2 billion for taxpayer services and $45.6 billion for enforcement, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will raise more than $200 billion in additional revenue for the federal government.
"I look forward to President Biden signing this historic bill into law. As we celebrate this win, there is more work to be done — protecting reproductive health care, addressing the housing crisis, strengthening our democracy, ending the failed war on drugs and much more.
"I will continue to work tirelessly on these issues, because as difficult as the challenges we face are, inaction is not an option. The federal government has to solve problems rather than create new ones. Today's passage of the Inflation Reduction Act proves that we can still come together and do just that."
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, 1st District:
"The Inflation Reduction Act is a transformational piece of legislation that benefits Oregonians and Americans in many ways.
"It will reduce daily costs, expand access to affordable health care, strengthen domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce the federal deficit. "Importantly, this plan will meaningfully reduce carbon emissions by investing nearly $375 billion in a clean energy future. It will lower consumer energy costs with clean energy tax credits, and decarbonize every sector of the economy to reduce 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions by 2030. This will move us toward a better, healthier, and more secure future for Oregonians and people across the country.
"These historic investments come at a time when higher prices are straining household budgets and depriving too many Oregonians of the full benefits of our growing economy.
"I was pleased to help get the Inflation Reduction Act over the finish line to ease the financial burdens Americans face, and pay for it by improving tax fairness and closing loopholes exploited by the very largest corporations. I look forward to delivering these benefits to Oregonians."
Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, 5th District:
"I have been particularly concerned about the cost of our health care system and have championed efforts to reign in the cost of prescription drugs throughout my tenure in the United States Congress.
"The prescription drug price reduction framework in the Inflation Reduction Act is the culmination of years of work by my team in finding a solution that reduces costs, especially for fixed-income seniors, yet still keeps drug research and innovation alive in the United States.
"This legislation not only allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time ever, but keeps existing drug price increases to the rate of inflation and limits seniors' out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 a year while protecting America's preeminence in pharmaceutical research.
"After seeing previous drug price reduction efforts fail time and time again, a small group of dedicated House members with my leadership worked closely with key senators to formulate the core of what is now the prescription drug price reduction portion of the Inflation Reduction Act.
"The Medicare drug cost reductions will be transformative for our seniors. No longer will seniors face the debilitating cost of the 'donut hole' or catastrophic phase. This legislation shares the financial burden seniors face with pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Further, this legislation makes the biggest improvement to Medicare since the inception of Part D almost 20 years ago that got Medicare to cover some of seniors' prescription drug costs.
"This legislation is also fully paid for and will not only dramatically reduce costs for seniors but taxpayers as well with this portion of the IRA reducing our deficit by close to $300 billion by itself. Given Medicare's precarious financial position this savings to the program is huge for the overall viability of Medicare going forward.
"Additional tax changes in the legislation will have billion-dollar companies finally pay their fair share with at least a 15% minimum tax. The fact that these provisions will help pay for keeping ACA subsidies for middle-class Oregonians and an 'all of the above' climate change initiative is icing on the cake.
"I am very proud at the end of my congressional career to have been a leading voice and advocate for this life changing legislation which now heads to the president's desk to be signed into law."
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