On Wednesday, the preliminary details of a sweeping bill that would fund unprecedented climate-change measures were announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The tentative deal between the two lawmakers would see $369 billion invested in energy-security and climate-change programs over the next 10 years, with the aim of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. (Other proposed changes included in the bill are aimed at raising corporate taxes, lowering medicine costs, and reducing inflation.)
The news came after a weeks-long impasse between the conservative Democrat Manchin, whose swing vote has proven vital in Congress, and Schumer, with many remaining skeptical that a deal could be hammered out before the news of Manchin’s U-turn yesterday. While the bill will still need to be finalized and passed before these necessary changes can take place, many political pundits have already noted that, should it go through, the bill would be a major legislative victory for President Joe Biden.
Here, find everything you need to know about the historic bill.
What does the deal promise to do?
The legislation would fund various energy-security and climate-change programs to the tune of $369 billion, making it the most extensive climate package in U.S. history. (Its closest comparison is President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included $90 billion in clean-energy incentives.) This money would mostly come in the form of tax credits for solar, wind, hydrogen, and small-scale nuclear power, as well as credits for those purchasing electric vehicles. The agreement would also see a fee levied on oil and gas companies for excess methane emissions from 2025 onward.
Elsewhere, the bill—which is titled the Inflation Reduction Act—would “make a historic down payment on deficit reduction,” according to a statement by Manchin and Schumer, with the aim of fighting inflation, since the COVID-19 pandemic (among other factors) has seen prices soar in the world’s largest economy over the past two years. This would include raising minimum taxes for corporations (including a 15% minimum tax on profits over $1 billion) and the superrich, as well as funding to enforce existing tax laws, with the money from these initiatives being channeled to enact the climate proposals included. Democrats have already noted that the tax changes will not affect families making $400,000 or less and will not include any new tax levies for small businesses.
Who is supporting the deal?
While yesterday’s announcement marks a significant step forward in passing the bill, it will still have to clear the House against unanimous opposition from Republican senators. With the Senate currently divided 50-50 along party lines, Democrats will need both the full support of their own party (a threshold reached thanks to Manchin’s decision to back the bill) and the tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. And while Manchin has committed to throwing his weight behind the bill, other potential Democrat holdouts—including, most notably, the controversial Arizona senator Krysten Sinema—have yet to indicate their support, noting that they will need to review the legislation in full first.
What changed Manchin’s mind?
While Manchin had previously refused to back the bill, stating that he would only support a vastly narrower package that excluded climate-change measures, some have speculated that the reason for his change of heart lies in one of the bill’s less publicized details. A series of “commonsense permitting reforms,” as Manchin put it in a press release, for energy infrastructure would potentially approve the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is currently under construction and would transport shale gas from West Virginia to Virginia. Manchin has been a vocal supporter of the pipeline, and it may have been included in the package to help bring him on board.
What have Biden and Schumer said about the deal so far?
In a statement released yesterday, President Biden praised the deal as a landmark moment in the history of U.S. climate-change legislation. “This is the action the American people have been waiting for,” Biden said. “This addresses the problems of today—high health care costs and overall inflation—as well as investments in our energy security for the future.”
“By a wide margin, this legislation will be the greatest pro-climate legislation that has ever been passed by Congress,” Schumer said in a statement. “This legislation fights the climate crisis with the urgency the situation demands and puts the U.S. on a path to roughly 40% emissions reductions by 2030, all while creating new good-paying jobs in the near and long term. I thank Senator Manchin for his willingness to engage and his commitment to reaching an agreement that can earn the support of all 50 Senate Democrats.”