Senate passes sweeping US$622.75 bill to fight climate change

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Senate passes sweeping US$622.75 bill to fight climate change

The US Senate passed a sweeping US 430 billion $622.75 bill that would fight climate change, lower drug prices, and raise corporate taxes, a major victory for President Joe Biden.

After a 27 hour weekend debate and Republican attempts to derail the package, the Senate passed the legislation by 51-50 votes along party lines, with Vice-President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking ballot.

The legislation contains the boldest clean-energy package in American history to fight climate change while reducing consumer costs for energy and some medicines, according to top Democrats.

The bill could be sent to the White House for presidential approval if successful, and will be voted on in the House of RepresentativesHouse of Representatives.

In a statement, Mr Biden urged the House to act as soon as possible and said he looked forward to signing the bill.

The Senate is making history, an elated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, after he pumped his fists in the air as Democrats cheered and their staff members responded to the vote with a standing ovation.

The Democrats have criticised Republicans over the legislation's US 430 billion new spending and US 740 billion new revenue.

If the bill passes, it could be a boon for both Democratic re-election campaigns and Mr Biden's anaemic public approval rating due to high inflation.

The legislation aims to reduce carbon emissions and shift consumers to green energy, while reducing prescription drug costs for the elderly and tightening enforcement on taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

Democrats claim that it will help bring down inflation, an economic liability that has weighed on their hopes of retaining control in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election because the measure pays for itself and reduces the federal deficit over time.

The measure, argued by Republicans, will not address inflation, but they denounced it as a job-killing, leftist spending wish list that could undermine growth when the economy is in danger of falling into recession.

The bill was approved by the Democrats by using a parliamentary manoeuvre called reconciliation, which allows budget-related legislation to avoid the 100 seat chamber's 60 vote threshold for most bills and pass on a simple majority.

After several hours of debate, the Senate began a rapid-fire vote-a-rama on Democratic and Republican amendments that stretched into Sunday afternoon.

More than 30 Republican amendments, points of order and motions were repelled by Democrats, all of which were intended to scupper the legislation. Any change to the bill's contents wrought by an amendment could have hurt the Democrats' 50 senator coalition that needed to keep the legislation on track.

The price of insulin — US 35 a month through private health insurance — fell outside of the reconciliation rules and Democrats were unable to get the votes necessary to cap the costs despite broad support for lowering drug costs.

The new legislation would limit the cost of insulin for those on Medicare.