President Joe Biden on Thursday praised Democrats’ new deal on climate, taxes and health care as the “strongest bill you can pass” to deal with ongoing inflation, insisting the agreement was historic even if it tossed aside many of his policy goals.
Biden played no direct role in negotiating the $740 billion deal, crafted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.). Democrats hope to pass the bill through the House and Senate on party-line votes in the coming weeks.
“Look, this bill is far from perfect,” Biden told reporters during a 12-minute speech. “My message to Congress is this: This is the strongest bill you can pass to lower inflation, cut the deficit, reduce health care costs and tackle the climate crisis.”
Biden noted the bill would lower inflation — a festering economic problem that has turned into political poison for the president and the broader Democratic Party. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have very different views on what’s causing inflation, both agree the bill will help, Biden noted.
“This bill will in fact reduce inflationary pressure on the economy,” he said. “It’s a bill that will cut your cost of living.”
The legislation tightens a tax loophole used by private equity managers, imposes a 15% corporate minimum tax and saves the government money by allowing Medicare to negotiate cheaper prices for prescription drugs.
Those changes raise $740 billion, roughly $300 billion of which goes toward reducing the deficit. Another $369 billion goes toward fighting climate change boosting energy production, while $64 billion goes to a three-year extension of subsidies for the Affordable Care Act.
The climate provisions, in particular, were a major goal of Biden and Democrats.
“It will be the most important investment — not hyperbole — the most important investment that we’ve ever made in our energy security,” Biden said. He also hailed the measure as “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.”
In interviews on Thursday, Manchin stressed Biden’s lack of involvement with the negotiations.
“Biden was not involved. President Biden was involved in the others — the BBB and everything,” Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval. “We use some of those parameters and all that, but I was not going to bring the president in. I didn’t think it was fair to bring him in. This thing very well could not have happened at all. It could have absolutely gone sideways. So I had to see if we could make this work.”
Biden referred to the legislation by its new, Manchin-blessed name, the Inflation Reduction Act. But he noted at the beginning of the speech that “some of you guys will see a lot of similarities with Build Back Better,” the broader agenda Manchin killed in December 2021.
That proposal also included a monthly child tax credit and subsidies for universal child care and prekindergarten, as well as even higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
In his statement announcing the deal with Schumer, however, Manchin was blunt: “Build Back Better is dead.”