After a series of setbacks over the past year, US Senator Tina Smith’s work to pass major climate legislation culminates with an estimated $740 billion package that also focuses on health care and taxes.
Smith said in an interview that she had no doubt, looking back on her time in Washington, that she would see the legislation as “one of the most important things I’ve had the chance to work on.” .
The bill is a far cry from the roughly $3.5 trillion bill introduced last year. The deciding vote by Senate Democrats rejected that package, even though its price tag was reduced, leaving the party to scramble for a compromise.
As this fall’s midterm elections drew closer, it seemed unlikely that Democrats would be able to use the budget process they envisioned to avoid a filibuster in the Senate and pass major measures on climate, taxes and prescription drugs.
That changed in recent weeks, however, and Senate Democrats were able to overcome unanimous GOP opposition to pass the more limited package that Smith and Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also support.
The House voted 220 to 207 along party lines on Friday and sent the bill to Democratic President Joe Biden’s office.
“The climate and clean energy provisions are the most important thing we’ve ever done in this country when it comes to clean energy and addressing the climate crisis,” Smith said.
Republicans are furious with the legislation, which also allows the government to negotiate certain drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
“The Democrats’ response to the energy crisis they’ve exacerbated is a war on American fossil fuels to fund Green New Deal freebies for their wealthy friends,” GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. in a press release earlier this month. “And their answer to the runaway inflation they’ve created is a bill that experts say won’t significantly reduce inflation at all.”
The climate components of the legislation amount to approximately $373 billion. Smith’s influence on the bill, according to his office, includes working on direct payment for nonprofits so they can benefit from the $260 billion in clean energy tax credits. provided for in the legislation, as well as $9.7 billion to help rural electric cooperatives and more than $1.7 billion for the Rural Energy for America program.
“The positive benefits of the clean energy elements significantly outweigh the negative impacts of the pro-fossil fuel components of this bill,” Smith said.
Gabriel Chan, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, who focuses on energy and climate policy, said “looking at some of the modeling of the impacts of this bill, you expects it to significantly reduce carbon emissions.”
“It helps direct federal dollars toward clean energy investment,” Chan said, but later noted “a question mark over whether this will be enough to address some of the inequities in the energy system.” .