Democrats hope to dodge ‘booby traps’ to pass U.S. Senate climate, drugs bill

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks as U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) listen during a news conference after the U.S. Senate passed

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Democrats aim to dodge “booby traps” including COVID and surprises from within their own ranks to pass a $430 billion drugs and climate change bill agreed to by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and maverick Democratic Senator Joe Manchin after months of talks.

Passing the bill would be a win for President Joe Biden’s party; it would impose minimum taxes on U.S. corporations and extend subsidies for the popular Obamacare health insurance program. Schumer aims to get it approved before the Senate’s summer break, due to begin at the end of next week.

“There will be booby traps” on the way toward approval of the legislation, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock told reporters on Thursday following a party caucus meeting. He added, however, that Democrats can “absolutely” win passage this summer.

In a White House speech, Biden said the bill would mark significant progress toward achieving his climate goals and restoring fairness to the federal tax code, while also addressing inflation.

“The work of the government can be slow and frustrating and sometimes even infuriating,” he said, adding, “This bill is far from perfect, it’s a compromise … that’s often how progress is made, is by compromises.”

One key question is whether Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who, like Manchin, has blocked her party’s legislative priorities in the past, will vote for the bill.

Sinema has not yet indicated support or opposition, but she has previously voiced approval for the idea of a 15% minimum tax on the most profitable U.S. companies. That tax was included in the framework unveiled late Wednesday.

Schumer plans to use a parliamentary maneuver to pass the package with only Democratic votes, bypassing normal Senate rules requiring 60 of the Senate’s 100 members to agree. And his caucus members will also have to avoid contracting COVID-19 to be able to vote in person, as required by Senate rules.

Multiple Senate Democrats, including Manchin, as well as Biden, have tested positive for COVID in recent weeks.

Getting the bill passed could help Democrats stem their losses in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when Republicans are favored to win a majority in the House of Representatives. Republicans also hope to regain control of the Senate.


Manchin, who would be up for re-election in 2024 in West Virginia, the No. 2 coal-producing state where former Republican President Donald Trump has broad support, took to the airwaves on Thursday to defend the bill.

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