The vote-a-rama came hours after all 50 Democrats voted to begin debate on the package, with Senate Republicans unanimously opposed. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie after voting was held open for more than two hours.
Earlier in the day, much of the party-line proposal survived tests that determined what could remain in the legislation without subjecting it to a filibuster. Medicare parts of the prescription drug reform plan could still be included, a Senate lawmaker ruled, as Democrats lost ground on a separate pillar that would have penalized drug companies for raising prices for individuals with private health insurance. And the tax and environment provisions of the legislation also progressed unscathed, meaning the guts of the bill remained intact.
“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as he opened the roll call vote. He called it a “pass for one of the most productive areas the Senate has seen in a very long time.”
Just two weeks ago, Democrats expected to pass a narrower health care bill aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs and expanding Affordable Care Act subsidies. But Manchin and Schumer then unveiled a new deal that revived proposals to spend big on energy and raise taxes on big corporations.
After the Senate completes its vote-a-rama, the chamber will move to approve the bill and send it to the House, which is scheduled to take up the legislation on Friday.
“We have to keep the deal intact and not let the Republicans elect us. Democrats understand that, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “The only way we’re going to do that is with Democratic votes, we can’t afford to lose anybody and what that means is we’re in this boat together.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he will “vote NO on all amendments, even the things I like,” and joined several other Democrats in that pledge.
But it’s not just Republicans who are expected to try to change the bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he wanted to offer amendments to expand the child tax credit, target fossil fuel companies and expand Medicare benefits and the extent of drug price reform, declaring his on Saturday that “there is no one who can deny that this legislation does not address the major crises facing working families.” Even before the start of the voting marathon, Sanders had already introduced an amendment along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to expand the ability to negotiate drug prices.
Sanders would need 49 other senators and the vice president to vote with him to approve them, given certain GOP opposition. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Democratic whip, said leaders are trying to “discourage” that.
“I’m going to try to keep this bill clean and get it out of the Senate,” Durbin said. “It is very important.”
The essence of the bill includes: provisions for lowering the prices of some prescription drugs; plow more than $300 billion into climate change and clean energy; impose a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations plus a new 1 percent excise tax on stock purchases; increased IRS enforcement; and extend Obamacare subsidies until the 2024 election.
Importantly, the fate of a key health care provision that Democrats want in the bill remains uncertain: lowering the price of insulin, a top priority for embattled incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Republicans are expected to challenge real-time insulin delivery, forcing a showdown on the Senate floor.
“I need them not to block it,” Warnock said of Republicans. “If they don’t block it, it will pass.”
Aides on both sides of the aisle had been discussing the Democrats’ drug pricing plans for weeks. Republicans argued that the savings produced by the mandate involving the private insurance market, in particular, could be considered a budgetary side effect rather than the main goal of the policy, which would break Senate budget rules.
Senate Republicans still criticized the Democratic prescription drug price-setting language. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it would “bring about a world where far fewer new drugs and treatments are invented in the first place as companies cut back” on research and development.
Democrats also got good news overnight on their climate change plan — the Senate rules arbitrator signed off on provisions of the energy bill, including tax credits for electric vehicles and a bonus tax credit to encourage renewable energy developers. clean pay the prevailing wage. The electric vehicle portion of the bill also includes provisions designed to encourage American battery manufacturing that Manchin supports.
Democrats also preserved another element of the bill’s climate section: a proposed tariff on oil and gas companies that exceed a certain level of methane emissions. And under Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), accelerated corporate tax write-off language was gutted Thursday, as was a proposed narrowing of the so-called carried interest loophole that covers some investment income.
She and three other western Democratic senators also secured $4 billion in new drought funding in the party-line bill.
Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.