US Senate Democrats begin vote on stimulus bill

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US Senate Democrats begin vote on stimulus bill

The US Senate Democrats on Saturday began a vote on a bill that would address key elements of President Joe Biden's agenda, tackling climate change, lowering the cost of energy and senior citizens drugs and forcing the wealthy to pay more taxes.

A Senate rulemaker determined earlier that the lion's share of the $430 bill could be passed with only a simple majority, bypassing a filibuster rule that requires 60 votes in the 100 seat chamber to advance legislation and allow Democrats to pass it over Republican objections, majority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Democrats hope the legislation will give a boost to their candidates in the 8 November midterm elections, in which Biden's party is in an uphill battle to retain control of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Schumer said the Democrats received extremely good news. Medicare will finally be allowed to negotiate drug prices. This is a big victory for the American people. Medicare is a government health insurance program for people age 65 and older.

There are three main parts of the bill: a 15% minimum tax on corporations, tougher IRS enforcement and a new excise tax on stock buybacks. The legislation has raised more than $740 billion in new revenues, and it has raised $430 billion in new spending.

The bill will set $4 billion in new federal drought relief funds, as well as billions of dollars to encourage the production and purchase of more electric vehicles and foster clean energy. The move could help the re-election campaigns of Democratic Senators Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.

The Republicans promised to do everything they can to stall or block the bill, with Senator Lindsey Graham calling the legislation a jihad they're on to tax and spend. The Democrats want to get the bill through the Senate using an arcane and complicated reconciliation procedure that allows passage without Republican support in the chamber, with the Democrats in control because Kamala Harris, the vice-president, can cast a tie-breaking vote.

If drug prices rise faster than inflation, a provision would have forced drug companies to refund money to government and private health plans. The measure could not be applied to private industry, according to the Senate's arbiter.

The start of the vote is going to start on Sunday or early next week with senators offering amendment after amendment in a time-consuming vote-a-rama Senators on the left, such as Bernie Sanders, trying to expand the scope of the bill to include new programs such as federal subsidies for childcare or home healthcare for the elderly. The Republicans have signaled that they will offer a number of amendments on another issue: immigrants coming across the US border with Mexico.