How did Kansas, Missouri delegation vote on Biden’s sweeping economic package?

·4 min read
Luke Johnson/The Kansas City Star

Congress approved legislation on Friday aimed to combat climate change, reduce the cost of prescription drugs and raise taxes on corporations, as Democrats completed the last legislative step in an arduous push to deliver on several pieces of President Joe Biden’s policy agenda.

Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas and Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Cori Bush of Missouri joined the Democratic majority to pass the bill by a 220-207 vote. Every Kansas and Missouri Republican voted against the measure, in a party-line vote.

Its passage comes as the Democratic Party heads into a November election where Republicans are expected to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Davids is among the vulnerable members facing a tough reelection bid in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, where new district boundaries drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature removed Democrats and added Republicans from rural counties.

She heralded the passage of the bill Friday, saying the bill contained solutions she’s sought to deal with higher prices on gas, groceries and medicine — like allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, supporting clean energy jobs and lowering the deficit.

“While no bill is perfect, we can’t understate the massive, concrete difference this will make for families,” Davids wrote. “I was proud to support it and will keep fighting for Kansans.”

Davids’ Republican opponent in the general election, Amanda Adkins, was quick to criticize the bill. She pointed to high inflation — which is at 8.5% — and said the bill does not offer short-term solutions to inflation or health care costs.

“The Democrat’s answer is legislation that does not impact inflation, provides no near-term answers on healthcare cost, increases the cost of energy, and expands government,” Adkins wrote in a statement about the bill.

The bill was the result of a long, winding negotiation as the Biden administration attempted to get some of their top priorities through an evenly divided U.S. Senate, where West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, both Democrats, repeatedly spiked previous, expanded versions of the bill. What emerged was a narrow agreement, one in which the expected revenue from raising taxes on corporations and going after tax cheats is expected to pay for the environmental provisions and Affordable Care Act extension. The bill aims to curb carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

It’s the latest in a string of legislative victories for Biden and the Democrats — along with an effort to spur the domestic production of semiconductors and a bipartisan bill to expand health care to veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits.

Republicans, already focusing on inflation and high gas prices, have been quick to criticize one of the revenue raising portions of the bill — $124 billion to the IRS for tax enforcement. The money will go toward hiring 87,000 IRS agents in an effort to step up enforcement against people who avoid paying their taxes.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has directed the IRS not to use the funding to target people who make less than $400,000, but Republicans have pointed to a revenue estimate by the Joint Committee on Taxation that found that most of the money that will be raised by hiring new IRS agents will come from people who make less than $200,000.

While the bill is called the Inflation Reduction Act, economists have said they expect the legislation to have little impact on inflation. Instead, it’s being marked as the federal government’s most significant attempt to combat climate change and the completion of a long effort to rein in high prices in the pharmaceutical industry.

The bill focuses largely on moving the economy toward lower carbon emissions by providing a financial incentive for people and businesses to shift toward lower emission energy. Under the bill, people who make less than $150,000 would be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit if they buy an electric vehicle if it meets certain requirements of parts manufactured in the United States, in an effort to help more people afford the vehicles. It also gives people a tax credit if they make energy efficient home improvements.

Companies will get a tax credit if they reduce their emissions or switch their vehicle fleets to electric vehicles.

It also provides around $30 billion to spur the domestic production of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries, though it requires increased leasing of federal land for oil and gas projects.

Along with the climate provisions, the bill attempts to lower health care costs. It allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a policy that lawmakers say will help drive down the cost of prescription drugs. It also extends the Affordable Care Act.

Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall has been critical of the effort to allow the government to negotiate drug prices, claiming it will hamper the American pharmaceutical industry. He offered an amendment last week that would have excluded two categories of drugs from negotiations with Medicare.

Despite a marathon weekend session, the bill passed the Senate along party lines last Sunday. The senators from Kansas and Missouri, all of whom are Republican, voted against the bill.

Biden is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks.