House passes federal health care, tax and climate change bill

The U.S. House delivered another major legislative victory for President Joe Biden on Friday, approving a slimmed-down health care, tax and climate change bill that had been given up for dead by most Democrats in Congress just a few weeks ago.

The vote was 220-207. Every Georgia Democrat voted for the package, while all state Republicans opposed it. The measure now goes to the president for his signature.

“This is an important bill,” U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, declared on the House floor. “Yes, it will bring down inflation.”

Republicans saw the details much differently.

“Democrats are ramming through their tax and spend bill that will only make life worse,’” said U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, as GOP lawmakers mocked the idea that it will curtail price increases for consumers.

ExploreClimate bill could be a game changer for Georgia solar. Here’s why

The plan includes two main health care provisions. One allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with drugmakers. The other extends for three years extra subsidies to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Medicare beneficiaries would see their out-of-pocket prescription costs capped at $2,000 in 2025, and seniors would also see insulin prices through Medicare capped at $35 per month.

The tax provisions were highlighted by a minimum 15% tax on big corporations. There would also be a 1% tax on stock buybacks.

There are no specific changes to personal income tax rates, but Republicans claimed the plan would raise taxes on many making under $400,000 a year.

The GOP also attacked plans to add nearly $80 billion over 10 years to the Internal Revenue Service’s budget.

“Make no mistake, this will result in more IRS harassment of lower- and middle-income Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville.

Democrats denied those assertions and said the money would help improve customer service and ease tax return delays.

The $370 billion-plus in climate change provisions — a mix of tax credits and subsidies designed to promote clean energy sources — are nowhere near what Democrats wanted but were still hailed by supporters.

“One thing that I’m really excited about is this is the largest investment ever in climate action,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta. “We are making sure that we address the needs of our future.”

The White House says the plan will help reduce carbon pollution by about 40% in the next decade.

For utilities such as Georgia Power, the bill offers a range of new investment and production tax credits that should lower the cost of building new solar projects, making renewable energy sources more appealing.

The same type of tax breaks could spur more production of solar panels in the state — such as the QCells project in Dalton — as the company says the new funding offered by this bill may mean new expansion opportunities.

But when it comes to electric vehicles, there were some complaints.

Georgia Republicans said the specifics of new vehicle tax credits won’t help companies such as Hyundai, which is building a $5 billion electric-vehicle and battery manufacturing plant in Bryan County.

“You’re messing around with a $5 billion investment, 8,000 jobs,” U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, said as Republicans fumed about Green New Deal policies.

ExploreHow the climate bill will affect Georgia’s EV industry, car buyers

Adding up all the new revenue and spending, it is estimated the plan would reduce the deficit by about $300 billion over 10 years — but that is still woefully short of what is needed to actually balance the federal budget.

The U.S. Senate approved the bill on Sunday with all 50 Democratic senators in favor and all 50 Republicans opposed. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote.

Staff writers Zach Hansen and Drew Kann contributed to this article.

How they voted

The U.S. House approved a health care, tax and climate change bill on Friday. Here’s how House members from Georgia voted:

“Yes”

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta

“No”

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton