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What’s inside the US’s first big climate bill?

Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, who negotiated the new deal, talk earlier in the year.

Enlarge / Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, who negotiated the new deal, talk earlier in the year. (credit: Chip Somodevilla )

At the end of June, the Supreme Court sent a message to the Biden administration: Any significant actions on the climate couldn’t come through existing environmental laws. Instead, a clear Congressional mandate for emissions reduction would be required. The administration had been working on getting such legislation through a narrowly divided Congress but continually ran afoul of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who represents a conservative, coal-producing state and is personally invested in a coal-fired power plant.

On Wednesday, Manchin finally signaled that a deal was in place, in the form of a 725-page long package of legislation that’s being termed the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.” While its branding comes from changes in the tax code and a new drug pricing plan, the bill is heavily tilted toward actions to limit climate change, with billions of dollars of tax breaks going to renewable energy. While it’s not guaranteed that this package will become law, having Manchin signed on greatly increases its chances.

Inflation? Tax breaks? I thought this was climate stuff

The structure of the package is the result of some quirks of the US political system. First, opposing climate legislation has become necessary to remain a Republican in good standing, meaning that this sort of bill needs to be passed purely on the strength of Democratic votes. That’s no problem in the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a slim majority. But in the Senate, which is split 50/50 between the two parties, any bills will be subject to a Republican filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

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