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Inland Northwest lawmakers split along party lines on Senate Democrats’ climate, inflation bill

Aug. 7, 2022 Updated Sun., Aug. 7, 2022 at 9:55 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) participate in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 13, 2022, in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing on women’s reproductive rights and healthcare access in a post-roe world.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images North America/TNS)
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) participate in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 13, 2022, in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing on women’s reproductive rights and healthcare access in a post-roe world. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images North America/TNS)

Sunday’s narrow passage of a bill pushed by Senate Democrats to reduce inflation and address climate policy was reflected in response by the region’s lawmakers.

Democrats praised the package as a necessary step to address the problems of rising costs and greenhouse gas emissions, while Republicans panned the legislation as irresponsible on issues of energy production, drug costs and more.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who took the Senate floor several times during the marathon voting session that began late Saturday evening and ended Sunday afternoon, said the bill made “meaningful progress” on prescription drug pricing and praised its climatological benefits.

“This historic legislation will be the largest-ever investment in climate action in our country’s history,” Murray said on the Senate floor. “Washington state is uniquely poised to take full advantage of federal clean energy tax credits and grants that will deliver lower energy costs for consumers, millions of good-paying jobs and promote real energy independence.”

Murray’s colleague in Washington, Sen. Maria Cantwell, lauded the bill’s provisions on green energy and drug prices.

“Washingtonians are paying way too much for prescription drugs,” Cantwell said.

But Republicans predicted the legislation would instead raise costs for families and do nothing to address gas prices, which have been declining after ballooning over the summer months.

“More inflation, higher taxes, unreliable and unaffordable energy, and fewer but more expensive lifesaving cures. That is the pain Democrats will further inflict on the hardworking people of this country as they double down on this grand socialist agenda,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement on Sunday.

“We haven’t seen this kind of record inflation since Jimmy Carter was president, yet Democrats today chose to pass legislation that will raise taxes and spend hundreds of billions of dollars,” Sen. Jim Risch said after the bill was passed.

The legislation passed on a 51-50 tally, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote in a contest that fell strictly along party lines. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill for final passage as soon as this week.

The final vote had been preceded by a series of votes on amendments that also drew strong words on the Senate floor. In particular, Murray chastised Republicans for blocking a measure that would have capped insulin prices at $35 per month for those on private insurance.

“This won’t just save money, it will save lives,” Murray said. “This should not be a hard vote to cast.”

But the Senate’s parliamentarian had ruled such a provision would violate the rules of the chamber permitting the bill to pass with a simple majority. The vote, called by Republicans, required 60 votes to pass, but just seven Republicans joined Democrats in allowing the measure to move forward.

Sens. Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho voted against the insulin price cap provision.

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