Senate approves spending bill, with votes from Warnock and Ossoff

With the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats on Sunday delivered a major victory for President Joe Biden’s agenda, as the U.S. Senate approved a health care, tax, and climate change package that had been stalled for over a year. The vote was 51-50.

“I’m thrilled we were finally able to pass this historic, once-in-a-generation investment in our country’s future,” said Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

The bill allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with drug makers, requires big corporations to pay a minimum 15% tax on profits, extends subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for another two years, and includes a series of tax incentives to help with climate change.

“Thank you, Georgia — you made this possible,” Warnock said, another reminder that the Biden agenda would have gone nowhere if not for the Senate runoff victories by Warnock and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff in January 2021.

Both Warnock and Ossoff joined with all other Democrats to ward off a series of Republican amendments, as the Senate stayed in session for over 27 straight hours to approve a cornerstone of the Biden agenda.

“I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does,” Mr. Biden said.

The bill ran into trouble on Sunday, when U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who had negotiated late changes with Democratic leaders, suddenly said she wanted to get rid of a provision that seemingly applied a 15 percent minimum corporate tax to smaller businesses owned by private equity firms.

Business groups like the Chamber of Commerce cried foul, and it led to Ossoff and Warnock voting for a GOP amendment to eliminate that provision.

Not everything worked out for Democrats on this bill — Warnock’s bid to cap out-of-pocket insulin payments for those with private health insurance was knocked out of the bill by Republicans.

Still, the bill will cap monthly insulin copays for Medicare beneficiaries at $35 per month, an achievement Warnock celebrated after the Senate vote. “This bill will strengthen health care access and lower health care costs for people across Georgia,” he said in a tweet.

Warnock also tried to expand Medicaid coverage in Georgia and other states under the Obama health law. While Democrats support that move — that was not part of the deal with Sinema — so, it was voted down 94-5.

Ossoff also had something to tout, as his plan for new solar manufacturing tax credits was included, designed to spur domestic solar panel production, like the Qcells plant in Dalton.

Republicans bitterly attacked the tax and spending package, but don’t have the votes to stop it.

“We can’t spend our way out of inflation and debt,” said U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro.

The U.S. House will vote on Friday.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. He writes a column that appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at