By Hunter Woodall Star Tribune AUGUST 12, 2022
WASHINGTON – Minnesota Democrats in the U.S. House voted Friday to pass landmark climate, tax and health legislation amid unanimous opposition from their Republican colleagues in the state.
After a tumultuous year that saw Democrats’ hopes of a more sprawling bill fade, centrists and progressives in the party rallied around the estimated $740 billion package. The bill includes about $373 billion in climate spending, including $260 billion for clean-energy tax credits.
“This is a big win for Minnesota,” Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said. “It’s a big win for the planet. And it’s high time that the federal government be a partner in this because we can’t do it alone by ourselves nationally and we can’t do it alone by ourselves internationally.”
McCollum and fellow Minnesota Democrats Dean Phillips, Ilhan Omar and Angie Craig voted for the bill; Republicans Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber, Michelle Fischbach and Brad Finstad opposed it.
Fischbach said on the House floor that farmers are not coming to her about climate change, but instead are talking about costs and inflation.
“This bill is riddled with provisions that carry the Green New Deal stamp of approval,” Fischbach said. “This bill is not designed to help the country recover.”
The measure is projected to help cut the federal deficit and includes a 15% minimum tax on some high-profit corporations, according to details on the Joint Economic Committee Democrats website. The bill also lets the government negotiate some drug prices for Medicare recipients, along with other health care moves championed by Democrats.
“Between the deficit reduction, the pharmaceutical price reduction and the investments in climate mitigation, I think that it’s a transformative package that our country, if looked at objectively, should be proud,” Phillips said.
The bill heading to President Joe Biden’s desk is less expansive than the multitrillion-dollar package of climate change, child care, universal preschool and affordable housing measures that Democrats focused on last year. With the bill’s fate in their hands, two moderate Senate Democrats played a major role in its final form. House Democrats still applauded the product.
“This is a major victory to the progressive movement, who for over a year now have pushed for a bold bill that addresses the major issues facing our country like climate change and health care,” Omar said in a statement.
“I remain concerned with certain provisions in the bill, including the expansion of fossil fuel leasing, the removal of a tax on wealthy private equity speculators and a cap on insulin prices for private insurers.”
Republicans sharply criticized the measure, highlighting economic woes during the Democratic control of the White House and Congress.
“Democrats are on an economically catastrophic spending spree,” Stauber said in a statement. “This terrible bill is nothing short of reckless at a time when inflation is at a 41-year high and our economy has entered a recession.”
Every Senate Democrat backed the bill in a vote Sunday; all 50 Senate Republicans opposed it. Although several other Democratic priorities in the Senate were blocked by filibuster, lawmakers relied on a special procedural route allowing them to pass the bill on the power of their razor-thin majority alone.
Finstad’s vote against the bill in the House was one of his first after being sworn into office earlier Friday morning to serve out the rest of the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s current term.
“This is what I signed up for,” Finstad said while hurrying around Capitol Hill on his first day, calling his opposition to the legislation “an easy no.”
The southern Minnesota Republican emphasized “family pocketbook issues” in the special election campaign that saw him defeat former Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger this week. The two will face off again this fall to decide who wins a full term in the slightly redrawn district.
“I look at this bill, and it funds about everything you could imagine,” Finstad said. “But fixes about nothing.”
Friday’s House vote may be one of the last major pieces of legislation that will influence races in November as Republicans look to win back control of Congress. It may also play a defining role in shaping swing district races, such as the one pitting Craig against Republican Tyler Kistner.
“I think about my grandson Noah when I think about [that] this is the largest investment in addressing climate change in our nation’s history,” Craig said.
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