Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo

Wicker, Hyde-Smith vote against climate, taxation bill

By Taylor Vance

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi over the weekend stuck with their Republican colleagues to oppose sweeping legislation to combat climate change, lower health-care costs, raise taxes on some corporations and reduce the federal deficit.

The estimated $740 billion package heads next to the House, where lawmakers are poised to deliver on President Joe Biden’s priorities, a stunning turnaround of what had seemed a lost and doomed effort that suddenly roared back to political life.

Democrats held united, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, while all 50 Senate Republicans voted against the package.

Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, said in a statement that the legislation is “totally disconnected from the needs of our country.”

“After causing massive inflation with last year’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, President Biden and his party are now pushing a massive tax hike on job creators and working Americans, all but guaranteeing that we will sink further into a recession,” Wicker said.

Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Brookhaven, similarly said in a statement that the bill will have the potential to worsen the national economy.

“There is no way hard-working middle-class families won’t end up paying the price for increased taxes and government mandates on job creators, energy producers, and companies,” Hyde-Smith said.

Senators engaged in a round-the-clock marathon of voting that began Saturday and stretched late into Sunday afternoon. Democrats swatted down some three dozen Republican amendments designed to torpedo the legislation.

Confronting unanimous GOP opposition, Democratic unity in the 50-50 chamber held, keeping the party on track for a morale-boosting victory three months from elections when congressional control is at stake

The bill ran into trouble midday over objections to the new 15% corporate minimum tax that private equity firms and other industries disliked, forcing last-minute changes.

Despite the momentary setback, the “Inflation Reduction Act” gives Democrats a campaign-season showcase for action on coveted goals.

It includes the largest-ever federal effort on climate change — close to $400 billion — caps out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare to $2,000 a year and extends expiring subsidies that help 13 million people afford health insurance. By raising corporate taxes, the whole package is paid for, with some $300 billion extra revenue for deficit reduction.

Barely more than one-tenth the size of Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion rainbow of progressive aspirations in his Build Back Better initiative, the new package abandons earlier proposals for universal preschool, paid family leave and expanded child care aid. That plan collapsed after conservative Sen. Joe. Manchin, D-W.Va., opposed it, saying it was too costly and would fuel inflation.

Nonpartisan analysts have said the “Inflation Reduction Act” would have a minor effect on surging consumer prices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.