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The House votes on the Inflation Reduction Act

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The House voted today to give final passage to the Inflation Reduction Act. The roughly $700 billion legislation cleared Congress without a single Republican vote and now heads to President Biden for his signature.

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NANCY PELOSI: If you are sitting at your kitchen table and wonder how you're going to pay the bills - your healthcare bills, your prescription drug bills - this bill's for you.

CHANG: That is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, celebrating the achievement earlier today.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now, the bill includes a lot of Democratic priorities, like addressing climate change, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, but it is far from the lofty plans that Democrats originally hoped they could pass with majorities in the House and the Senate.

CHANG: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following this bill and joins us now. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: OK. Just remind us, what is in this bill?

SNELL: Well, like you said, this covers a lot of ground - drug prices, healthcare, climate and energy and tax policy. You know, this - the big things that people are watching here is it would allow Medicare to negotiate directly on the cost of drugs. That's something Democrats have been talking about for a long time. They also have a goal of reducing emissions by 40%. And that comes from about $369 billion in climate and energy security investments, about half of the spending in the bill. That includes tax credits for wind and solar and other renewable energy, and there are incentives for residential and commercial investments in energy efficiency. And that is all offset, or partially offset, by changes to tax policy, including a 15% minimum tax on billion-dollar corporations and more IRS enforcement.

CHANG: OK, so that sounds like a lot, but all of that is essentially the replacement for the bigger Build Back Better plan that was a lot of President Biden's agenda. How does this legislation exactly stack up against what was first promised?

SNELL: Well, we should say, they worked on this for more than a year. And in that time, things like, you know, funding for childcare and universal pre-K and paid family leave were dropped out of the negotiations. There aren't changes to insulin prices for people on private insurance or really much in the way of changes in drug pricing for those people either. And this is a lot less ambitious on climate than they had originally hoped. I spoke with Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders yesterday, and he said he voted for this bill despite the fact that it doesn't do nearly enough of what he wanted. And he's worried people are becoming disillusioned because Congress isn't meeting their needs, particularly on healthcare.

BERNIE SANDERS: But I am very, very worried that ordinary Americans by the millions are giving up on democracy, giving up on whether or not their government cares about them and can address their needs.

SNELL: You know, but Democrats I talked to say this bill is really reflective of the moment and of political reality. And, you know, Sanders himself said that it's hard to get much done in a 50/50 Senate with a slim majority in the House.

CHANG: That's right.

SNELL: He says that's why he wants a more progressive - Democrats elected to the House and to the Senate.

CHANG: Well, Kelsey, how soon do you think it will be when most people will be able to feel, like, actual impact from this bill?

SNELL: Well, when it comes to the title of the bill, Reducing Inflation, don't expect anything anytime soon.

CHANG: OK.

SNELL: You know, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill has a negligible effect on inflation in 2022 and 2023.

CHANG: OK.

SNELL: Much of the clean energy and energy efficiency tax credits, though, will be available as soon as the bill becomes law. Other elements, like the extended healthcare tax credits and changes to the ACA, they won't expire. So people won't experience that as a new benefit, just make sure they don't lose things that already exist. Medicare starts to negotiate prescription drug prices at the end - I'm sorry, at the start of 2023, but that won't be noticed right away either. That really means that most of these changes won't hit people before they vote. So it's entirely up to Democrats to figure out how to explain it to people.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.