By Frank Fang
Senate Republicans lambasted their Democrat colleagues for passing a $740 billion health care and climate spending bill, warning the economic package will not help the sagging U.S. economy.
“Democrats under Joe Biden have spent trillions, creating the worst inflation in over four decades, and now their answer to this disaster of their own making is to tax us into a recession,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after voting against what he called a “radical proposal.”
Inhofe said it is not right to tackle the spiraling inflation by raising “taxes on small business and middle-class Americans,” as well as spending money on the “Green New Deal” agenda.
“This proposal could put more than 100,000 American jobs at risk and inflict a severely disproportionate economic impact on natural gas producing states, like Oklahoma,” Inhofe said.
On Aug. 7, the Senate passed the economic package, officially known as the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” by a party-line vote of 51 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Senate Democrats were able to get the legislation passed without any Republican support by resorting to a reconciliation process, which allows budget-related bills to pass on a simple majority and avoids the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Before the final passage of the bill, Democrats rejected more than 30 Republican amendments, points of order, and motions during a “vote-a-rama,” a procedure that is part of the reconciliation process when senators can introduce an unlimited number of amendments to budget-related measures.
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a U.S. advocacy group, said the Senate bill “will drive up the cost of household energy bills,” according to a commentary published on Aug. 7. It pointed to a provision to levy a 16.4 cents-per-barrel tax on crude oil and imported petroleum products, a cost the group said will be “passed on to consumers in the forms of higher gas prices.”
The bill is now being sent to the House for a vote, likely on Aug. 12, when House lawmakers reconvene briefly from summer recess. President Joe Biden has issued a statement urging the House to pass it “as soon as possible” and he looked forward to signing the bill into law.
American Rescue Plan
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, both reminded Americans where the U.S. economy is now, after Biden signed into the law the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” in March last year.
“My Democratic colleagues who are assuring you this bill [Inflation Reduction Act of 2022] will help you are the same people who said that in 2021,” Graham stated according to a statement from his office.
“The American Rescue Plan–a $1.9 trillion tax and spend proposal passed in 2021–was disaster for the American people,” Graham continued. “At the time of its passage, inflation was 2.6 percent. It is now 9.1 percent. And it’s no accident that the American Rescue Plan caused this problem.”
On July 13, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the consumer price index (CPI) soared 9.1 percent from a year ago, reaching the highest level since November 1981.
On a monthly basis, the CPI rose by 1.3 percent, higher than economists’ estimates of 1.1 percent. Food prices jumped by 10.4 percent, while energy prices surged 41.6 percent. Meanwhile, Americans’ real wages dropped 1 percent from May to June.
“Republicans warned Democrats in 2021 that if you pass the massive tax and spend bill called the American Rescue Plan, you will not rescue America. You will create a recession,” Graham added. “Unfortunately, we were right then and we are right now.”
“Where are we today?” Crapo asked in a statement, pointing to the state of the U.S. economy after the “American Rescue Plan” went into effect. “Gas prices have doubled. Economic stagnation.”
Crapo added the “Inflation Reduction Act” was “mislabeled,” for it “does nothing to address the significant inflation we are facing, or to ease burdens born today by low- and middle-income Americans.”
Graham and Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, both predicted a disaster for the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.
“In November the American people will fire the Democratic majority who have created the chaos in their lives,” Graham said. “Every problem we had before the Inflation Reduction Act was introduced is only going to get worse because of the policies in this bill.”
McDaniel said, “Democrats will pay the price in November for raising taxes on families during a recession.”
Some GOP senators suggested that their Democratic colleagues are waging “wars” with their massive spending bill.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, pointed out how Democrats voted against “commonsense Republicans” amendments to the bill, such as banning strategic petroleum crude exports to China, and expediting consideration of permits for infrastructure and energy projects.
“The Democrats’ war on American energy continued today,” Barrasso added. “These proposals would have unleashed American energy and lowered costs for families.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the spending will “kill West Virginia’s coal industry,” since the bill will raise taxes on the industry by “nearly 17 percent.”
Capito questioned why the spending bill will allocate $370 billion on “climate change” tax credits, and $80 billion to the budget of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to hire 87,000 agents to increase audits of taxpayers.
With a “supersized IRS,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in a statement that “Joe Biden’s federal government is coming after every penny you have with more audits.”
“With their new reckless tax-and-spending spree, Democrats have launched a WAR ON SENIORS and a WAR ON AMERICAN JOBS that hikes taxes and will result in far fewer life-saving drugs,” Scott added.
“The Democrats’ radical socialist agenda of bigger government and higher taxes isn’t working,” Scott continued. “The only thing that will come from this is even MORE SPENDING, HIGHER TAXES AND MORE INFLATION.”
Reuters contributed to this report.