President Joe Biden and top Democrats took a victory lap at the White House on Tuesday, celebrating their sweeping health care, climate and tax bill that was signed into law last month and a number of other legislative successes this summer.
In an event with thousands of people gathered throughout the sprawling and sunny South Lawn, Biden cheered the country’s progress recovering from the pandemic, the massive climate, tax and health care bill he signed last month and the bipartisan efforts that made it through the evenly-split senate this year.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes the largest investment in clean energy and climate change provisions in history, expanded Medicare benefits, subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans and revenue-raising tax provisions.
“The American people won, and special interests lost,” Biden said of the IRA Tuesday, later calling it evidence that “the promise of America is real.”
The bill, which passed with only Democratic votes, was the culmination of more than one-and-a-half years of work among senators to negotiate a package that could get all 50 Democrats on board. Republicans have called it wasteful and inflationary spending.
“Passing this law wasn’t easy,” Biden said Tuesday.
He also specifically thanked Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., who was the main Democratic hold-out on the bill, for “sticking with what you said you’d do.”
The White House waited to hold the massive gathering until after Congress returned to Washington from its August recess. On the lawn were not only members of Congress but also governors, mayors, top Biden administration officials, climate and health care advocates and union workers.
Artist James Taylor opened the celebration with a live rendition of his famous “Fire and Rain,” marking what he called a critical moment for the world to come together to combat climate change.
Biden cheered environmental advocates who have been pushing for years for urgent action to fight the impacts of climate change — impacts he said he’s seen firsthand when touring natural disasters in the states around the country.
“Nobody can deny there’s a crisis,” he said.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. told activists: “To the tens of millions of young Americans who have spent years marching, rallying, demanding that Congress act on climate change: we heard you loud and clear.”
Biden said that Americans pay more for prescriptions than any other country, cheering the IRA’s provisions that cap out-of-pocket costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 annually, plus $35 for insulin: “This year the American people won, and Big Pharma lost.”
On Tuesday the president also pointed to the other bipartisan successes he helped shepherd this year: a law to boost veterans’ health care, the first gun safety reform bill in decades and the CHIPS and Science Act, which provides billions of dollars to boost domestic production of critical semiconductors.
“We're going to build a future — the future — here in the United States of America, with American workers, with American workers, with American-made products,
The Inflation Reduction Act includes $369 billion in climate change investments, $64 billion to extend the Affordable Care Act and the potential to bring in more than $700 billion in revenue through IRS enforcement, corporate tax changes and prescription price negotiations.
In reality, outside experts have found that the IRA’s short-term impact on inflation is minor, though it could lower energy and medicine costs in the future.
A key consumer price report released Tuesday showed year-on-year inflation at a still-high 8.3%, even with slight improvement from the previous report. Gas prices have fallen for more than three months in a row, though food and rent are still elevated.
Republicans have balked at the Biden administration’s celebration of the spending law this month even as prices remained at the most-elevated levels in decades, as evidenced by the new report Tuesday.
“Prices were already way up compared to the year before that. So the 12-month number dramatically understates the total damage that Democrats have caused,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
“President Biden and Democrats are having a big celebration for their latest reckless spending bill, which they pretended would reduce inflation, but which nonpartisan experts say will actually make it worse. They could not look more out of touch if they tried.”
Biden hit back at those critics by highlighting the reduction to the deficit his administration has helped usher in this year, totaling about $1.7 trillion.
“We spend, but we pay,” the president said.