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Why did VP Harris vote in the Senate for the Inflation Reduction Act? What happens when a vote is tied?

To begin debate on the Inflation Reduction Act, Vice President Kamala Harris voted for the motion. Will she need to vote again for the bill to pass?

Update:
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to members of the media after voting on the Senate floor to break the 50-50 tie to proceed to the Inflation Reduction Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 6, 2022. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno
KEN CEDENOREUTERS

Vice President Kamala Harris has cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate in order for leaders to begin debate on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Under the constitution, the vice president “shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”

The IRA is a reconciliation bill and, as such, does not need a sixty-vote majority to become law. A compromise on the bill came as a surprise to many after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated publicly in mid-July that he would not support another spending bill before the elections in November.

With Sen. Manchin on board, conversations began with Senator Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) to ensure she would cast her vote in favor, paving the way for a legislative win for Democrats before the elections this fall.

The bill has shown to be popular across the country.

The polling organization Data for Progress found that seventy-three percent of voters, with a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents, support the bill.

Those who believe this poll may have a liberal slant should know that when asked: “If the election for U.S. Congress in your district was held today, which one of the following candidates are you most likely to vote for?” more respondents said Republican (48 percent Republican - 44 percent Democrat -- 8 percent unknown).

What made it into the final bill?

The IRA has three dominant areas of focus: healthcare, climate change, and economic security.

The bill also makes a few changes to the US tax code, including adding a fifteen percent minimum corporate tax. The legislation would also allocate funding to the IRS to hire thousands of workers to go after tax evasion on the highest earners.

On the healthcare front the bill wold allow the federal government to negotiate the price of ten drugs with pharmaceutical companies for Medicare members. The effects of these negociations would go into effect in 2026. This is one aspect of the bill that has been criticized by Senator Bernie Sanders who rejects the small number of drugs covered. Sen. Sanders has cited the years of experience of the Veterans Adminstration in negociating drug prices and sees no reason why such a process should not be allowed for Medicare.

Let the amendment process begin

This weekend has been spent debating and voting on amendments to the legislative. Some Democratic Senators worried that the bill’s fate could be jeopardized if more progressive party members began to suggest modifications. For that reasons, dozens of Democrats have said that they will vote against any amendement, even if they agree with it.

Senator Cory Booker has said that the party “must stick together to reject attempts to divide us” but has largely ignored the optics of such comments.

The reconciliation bill will receive no Republican votes, meaning that the party does not support all proposed amendments because conservative caucus members have the power to thwart the entire legislation. Senators

Democrats have done a 360 over the last year when measures like extending the child tax cut, expanding medicare coverage to include dental, hearing, and eye care, tuition-free community college, and capping the income families spend on child care, were all found in the reconcilation bill dubbed, “Build Back Better.” All of these measures had to stripped, and benefits for the oil, gas, and coal sectors had to be added to win the votes of Senators Manchin and Sinema.

Sanders stands alone, raising awareness of the measures not included in the bill

The Democratic party’s objection to amendments to alter the vote has not stopped Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has introduced several to bolster the bill and provide relief to families.

Sen. Sanders has defended his position by speaking to the popularity of his proposals with voters across political parties. For example, eighty-three percent of voters support expanding Medicare coverage to ensure seniors can go to the dentist or take care of their sight and hearing needs. When the amendment was introduced, ninety-seven senators voted it down.

Although Sanders has put up a fight, he has always said that he supports the legislation, seeing as it as insufficnet but a small step forward. The situation is a reminder of the political obstacles that still exist for meaningful climate action that supports energy companies and working-class families through the clean energy transition.

Knowing that his amendment will fail to garner the support needed, Sanders has pressed ahead, once again showing that while a member of the Democratic caucus, he represents an independent vision for the future.

Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is the only other Democrat who has introduced an amendment during what is known in Washington as “votarama.” When debate begins for a reconciliation bill, an unlimited amount of modifications can be presented and called to a vote.

Like all those introduced by Sen. Sanders, the amendment failed to receive the fifty votes needed.

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