OnPolitics: Senate passes bill on drug prices, energy over weekend

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Hello, OnPolitics readers!

President Joe Biden saw firsthand Monday what he described as "incredibly heartbreaking" devastation unleashed by flash flooding that killed at least 37 people in southeastern Kentucky and left a path of destruction across several counties.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who accompanied Biden and first lady Jill Biden, described the flooding as “unlike anything we've ever seen.”

Hundreds of people were displaced from their homes by the flooding and mudslides, and others remain stranded without water, electricity or other critical supplies. The National Guard airlifted more than 1,300 people out of the flooded areas, while state police and other agencies rescued thousands of others, Beshear said.

Biden has declared 13 counties federal disaster areas.

It's Amy with today's top stories out of Washington.

Senate passes sweeping bill on lowering drug prices and promoting clean energy

ICYMI this past weekend: Senate Democrats approved sweeping legislation on health care, climate and taxes along a party-line vote Sunday, delivering a major win for President Joe Biden before the midterm elections.

The Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes record spending on clean energy initiatives, measures to reduce prescription drug prices and a tax overhaul to ensure large corporations pay income taxes. Every Democrat voted in support and every Republican against the measure.

Where does the bill go now? It heads to a vote in the Democratic-controlled House, where it's likely to pass as early as Friday. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tiebreaking Senate vote in favor of the measure after a grueling overnight session of debate, amendments and negotiation. The 15-hour "vote-a-rama" that began at 11:30 p.m. ended with Harris' deciding vote on final passage.

Some items in the bill: The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices – long opposed by the pharmaceutical industry – and extend Affordable Care Act subsidies three more years through 2025.

To address climate change, the bill includes $10 billion in tax credits to build electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines; $7,500 tax credit rebates for consumers to buy electric vehicles; and $9 billion for energy-efficient home retrofits for low-income Americans.

The bill would raise about $739 billion in tax revenue, more than offsetting the $433 billion in proposed spending. The legislation would decrease the federal deficit by $102 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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Biden has used a wartime power throughout his presidency, but will he rely on it even more?

On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden took advantage of a special, wartime power to supercharge the U.S. pandemic response, using a tool he would return to multiple times throughout his presidency.

In an executive order citing authority under the Defense Production Act, the new president directed his administration to secure masks, tests and other equipment in short supply. Biden soon ordered a 100-day White House review of American industry that concluded the act was a “powerful tool” that could be deployed beyond the pandemic and traditional military use.

What is the Defense Production Act? The Defense Production Act, enacted in 1950 at the start of the Korean War, is an authority the president has to order private business to prioritize and produce goods needed for the national defense, emergency preparedness and to recover from natural disasters.

Biden went on to issue a series of orders relying on the act – to jumpstart mining of minerals for electric car batteries in March and to increase baby formula supplies in May. In June, he invoked the act in orders authorizing federal investment in manufacturing of solar panel components, insulation, electrical transformers and heat pumps, part of a broader effort to combat climate change.

Biden’s exercising of the unilateral power has also drawn criticism that he has twisted the act beyond its intent to advance his political agenda and, at times, to compensate for administration oversights.

History shows Biden is far from the first commanders in chief to use the law. Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama used it, as did George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Here are some notable instances when modern presidents authorized the use of the Defense Production Act.

The latest in the Ahmaud Arbery case: The three men serving life in prison for Arbery's murder were again handed lengthy prison sentences Monday on federal hate crime charges. -- Amy

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate passes Inflation Reduction Act to address drug pricing, energy