The House of Representatives is poised to approve the $700bn climate, health and tax bill championed by Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, completing a significant legislative victory for the US president and his party.
The lower chamber of Congress was due to vote on the legislation on Friday following its final passage in the US Senate this past Sunday. It will then head to Biden for his signature.
Even though Democrats hold a single-digit majority in the House, the bill is widely expected to pass since it is largely supported by both the progressive and moderate wings of Biden’s party.
White House officials on Thursday touted the passage of the bill through Congress as a big accomplishment for Biden and a sign of his determination to deliver what was an ambitious economic agenda in a tough political environment, despite numerous setbacks in the negotiations on Capitol Hill. They also expressed confidence that it could boost the president’s low approval ratings heading into November’s midterm elections.
“[Biden] has a long history as someone who’s gotten knocked down and has just gotten back up and stayed with it. And that happened here. And that’s an important thing for the country to say,” said one White House official. Another added: “This is the Biden vision. These are Biden priorities . . . this is because of president Biden’s leadership and because he laid down the path to get this done.”
The $700bn legislation set for congressional approval is known as the Inflation Reduction Act — even though its effect in lowering prices is not expected to be felt for several years and will be negligible in the short term.
It includes a huge boost in funding for clean energy incentives, while allowing the government to negotiate the price of certain drugs for seniors, as well as tax measures including the establishment of a 15 per cent minimum tax rate and a 1 per cent excise tax on corporations.
The bill also beefs up funding for the Internal Revenue Service to increase tax enforcement on the wealthy, which has attracted fierce criticism from Republicans.
In the Senate, the legislation received no Republican support and was passed by 51 to 50 votes after vice-president Kamala Harris cast the tiebreaking vote. In the House, the legislation is also expected to receive no or minimal Republican backing.
Final passage of Biden’s flagship economic legislation has been overshadowed this week in American politics by the FBI’s search of former president Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago in Florida as part of a probe into his handling of classified information from the White House.
The Biden administration has sought to distance itself from the raid, saying the justice department operates independently and the president is focused on other issues of concern to Americans.
“The president was not briefed . . . was not aware of it. No one at the White House was given a heads-up,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday. “[Biden] believes in the rule of law, in the independence of justice department investigations, that those investigations should be free from political influence. And he has held that commitment as president.”
Biden’s batch of good news has also been bolstered by comforting economic data. Last week, the labour department reported that jobs growth had accelerated in July, defying fears of a sharp slowdown or even a recession — and this week figures showed inflation starting to ease on the back of lower petrol prices.
Still, polls continue to show that Americans widely disapprove of his handling of the economy.