After a few weeks of criticizing Democrats, I need to applaud them for getting something very right. This week, Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin announced a deal for a budget bill that could pass the Senate as early as next week. The bill may be far short of where Democrats started last summer, but it’s a very good bill. Passing it would be a big win. They would be wise not to screw this up.
The bill provides a huge investment to address climate change. The environmental organization Evergreen Action said, “…[T]his bill has the potential to be the single largest investment in clean energy in American history.” It would reduce emissions by 40% over 2005 standards by 2030.
The bill also gives Medicare the power to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, lowering the price for seniors. Progressives have been pushing for that change for years. It also extends Obamacare subsidies for three more years.
And it’s all paid for with taxes on the rich and big corporations. It closes tax loopholes exploited by corporate America and funds the IRS to increase audits on the wealthiest Americans. Overall, the bill reduces the deficit by $300 billion, which will in turn help reduce inflation.
It’s a good bill. Democrats even got the name right: The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The bill began life as “the reconciliation bill” in the wake of passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, and then became the confusing Build Back Better. Finally, it’s got a name that says something.
Politically, the bill could help Democrats going into the 2022 midterms. Right now, they’ve got momentum fueled mainly by anger at the court for overturning Roe v Wade and the overreach of Republicans trying ban abortion across the nation. The climate part of the bill should help energize young people who consider climate change among the leading problems facing the nation and they’ve been demoralized with the current administration’s response. This bill could give them hope and push them toward the polls in November.
Passing the bill would also make Joe Biden’s first term in office one of the most consequential in recent memory—or at least since Barack Obama got the ACA passed. The infrastructure bill has eluded presidents at least since George W. Bush. The push on climate legislation would be transformative, completing Obama’s attempt to shift the country from carbon-based fuels to carbon-free energy. Biden is also quietly appointing federal judges faster than any president since John F. Kennedy 60 years ago.
All of this is happening at a time when the political environment is getting better for Democrats. Polls show that the party now has a slight lead in the generic ballot after trailing by large margins earlier this year. According to one poll, abortion is now a more salient issue than inflation, even though the economy in general is by far the top issue. If Democrats can add solid accomplishments that will motivate their base, then they might be able to mitigate the fundamental advantages the Republicans hold in this election cycle.