Calling for Swift Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act

Inflation Reduction Act — As Delivered

I wanted to come down here tonight to talk a little bit about the bill that we have in front of us this weekend, the Inflation Reduction Act.

I’ve been in the Senate for 13 years, and I think this is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we’ve ever considered.

And let me just say also, [the] presiding officer and I have been here for a long time. And there have been weeks and weeks and weeks — months, years — that have gone by here when it felt like we weren’t getting anything done.

And what an amazing moment to be here, when we’ve got a bipartisan infrastructure bill that we passed, the biggest investment in our infrastructure since Eisenhower was president.

We passed the first bipartisan bill to overcome the NRA just a few weeks ago. Last week we were able to pass the CHIPS Act to bring back semiconductors to the United States of America, and the PACT Act, the veterans bill, last night.

And today, you know, we’re here to talk about the Inflation Reduction Act.

I mean, it’s quite an amazing moment in our democracy and I think in the country’s history, and it’s not the subject of my speech tonight, but I wanted to say with the presiding officer on the floor, that I think there might be a reason to think that we’re at a moment in our country’s history when we’re actually ready, finally, to turn the page on the trickle-down economics that have created such an unfair economy for so many families and so many young people in this country, and create once again in the United States, an economy that when it grows, it grows for everybody, not just those at the very top.

And this bill fits into that. The bill on infrastructure fits into that. The bill on the semiconductors fits into that as well.

And if you look at the agenda Washington has pursued for the last 40 years or so, it’s pretty simple: Let the big corporations do whatever they want and call it “freedom.” Cut investments in working families and in our future. And instead of grappling with the income equality that we have, and instead of grappling with the lack of economic mobility that we have, cut taxes for the wealthiest people in the country, cut taxes for the largest corporations in the country, hoping that those tax cuts somehow will magically trickle down to everyone else and pay for themselves.

That has never happened. Here’s what happened instead:

40 years of an economy that’s worked really well for the wealthiest people and corporations, but hasn’t worked very well for anybody else.

An economy with income inequality higher than at any time since the 1920’s where, Mr. President, the top 0.1% of Americans, a mere 160,000 families, hold basically the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90% of Americans, nearly 145 million families.

160,000 families — the top 0.1% — holding as much wealth as the bottom 90% — nine out of ten Americans, nearly 145 million families.

Where kids, I’m sad to say this in front of the pages that are here tonight, have a 50–50 shot of earning as much as their parents when that number used to be 90%.

That charges families more for their health care than any other industrialized country in the world, that forces seniors in this country — and only in this country — to cut their pills in half, or skip prescriptions, or decide whether they’re going to be able to eat or take their medicine.

That’s shackled to a global fossil fuel market dictated by tyrants like Vladimir Putin, despite our abundant resources at home and despite the urgent threat from climate change.

That is the legacy of the past 40 years of trickle-down economics. And as I’ve said many, many times on this floor, we can’t survive another 40 years like the last 40 years and expect to hold on to this democracy.

I don’t think we can survive another ten years like this and expect to hold on to this democracy with this failed agenda. Working families can’t sustain it, and our democracy can’t withstand it, because when people feel like they’ve lost a sense of opportunity for themselves and their families no matter how hard they work, that’s when, you know, throughout human history, somebody shows up, some self-interested politician shows up and says, I alone can fix it. You don’t need a democracy. You don’t need the rule of law. You should expect your public sector and your private sector to be hopelessly corrupt, and you’re a sucker if you don’t believe that, because people are going to take advantage of you.

We need a new agenda for America, Mr. President. And I’m pleased to say that we’re closer, I think, tonight, this weekend, than we have been in a long time to pursuing one.

It started with the American Rescue Plan. It continued, as I said earlier, with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law we passed this year to rebuild our country, and the bipartisan innovation bill that we passed last week to help us compete with China and bring thousands of good-paying jobs back home.

And now I hope we’re close to passing the next part, the Inflation Reduction Act.

This bill will lower costs for millions of families at the pharmacy, at the pump, and on their monthly energy bills and insurance premiums.

It will do more — it will do more, to achieve energy independence and fight climate change than anything that we have ever done, than anything that we have ever done as a nation.

And unlike the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which added $1.9 trillion to the debt — notwithstanding the arguments that we’ve heard going back to Ronald Reagan, the fake false arguments that we heard going back to Ronald Reagan, that these tax cuts will pay for themselves, once again, of course they didn’t pay for themselves.

And unlike that $1.9 trillion hole blasted into our deficit when unemployment was only at 3.5% — every cent of that money borrowed just for the privilege of giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, 52% of that bill went to the top 5% of Americans. We borrowed every single cent to do that.

That would be no different than when the presiding officer was the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, and he said to the people of Richmond, “I’ve got a really good idea for how we could spend a lot of money. But we’re going to have to borrow money to do it.”

And they said, “Well, that sounds like a lot of money that you’re borrowing. Tell us what you’re spending it on. Are you using it for our roads and bridges?”

“No.”

“Are you using it for the parks?”

“No.”

“Are you using it for education, for mental health, which we desperately need in this country? Are you using it to transfer the local economy to greener energy?”

“No.”

“What are you using it for, Mr. Mayor?” they would say.

And the answer is, “I am going to borrow this massive amount of money and give it to the two wealthiest neighborhoods in Richmond and hope that it’s just going to trickle down to everybody else.”

That is — I’m not making it up. That is the theory. That is the policy.

And that was the theory and policy when Ronald Reagan was president. That was the theory and policy when Donald Trump was president.

And unlike those bills, every single cent in this bill is paid for. More than that. It cuts the deficit by over $300 billion.

If you listen to my Republican colleagues, at least some of them, and the way they complain about this bill, you’d think it was some sort of Bolshevik takeover of the United States of America, and it’s ridiculous.

I think sometimes they just don’t even want the public to know what’s in this bill, because what’s in this bill is so popular with the American people.

Let’s start with health care. For the first time ever, this bill requires Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of the American people.

The presiding officer and I wrote a bill called Medicare X. We introduced it, I think, in 2017, to create a public option so everybody in America could have a benefit of choosing between their private insurance and public insurance. That’s not in this bill, but in that bill, we said that Medicare ought to negotiate drug prices for seniors.

And this would allow Medicare to use its market power to drive down the costs of prescription drugs. That’s going to save families thousands of dollars and it’s going to save our country billions of dollars.

The only reason we have not passed that is because special interests have succeeded at tying Medicare’s hands so that pharmaceutical companies can keep charging Americans prices that no other developed nation in the world would tolerate.

Americans like Julia from Denver. Her dad has a heart condition. He pays $6,000 a month for medication — that’s $72,000 a year for something he needs to take for the rest of his life.

That is outrageous. But I hear stories like that every day all over Colorado.

The Inflation Reduction Act also would cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors to $2,000 a year, so they aren’t spending down their retirement to buy medication.

I know seniors in Colorado who literally spend their entire retirements trying to figure out how to get the medication they need — the medication they’ve been prescribed by a doctor. The choices they have to make look unlike any other choices that any senior has to make in any other country in the world.

I was with some people in Pueblo recently, where one of the people said, “I have three inhalers, but I can’t afford the three inhalers, so I can only take one of them at a time and I’m getting sicker and sicker as a result of that.”

Another person in the room had worked her entire life at the local newspaper, and she was telling me she was having to cut her medications in order to make it through economically.

And on top of that — on top of that — this bill has a three-year extension for [a] tax credit to help millions of Americans pay for their health insurance, including over 150,000 Coloradans, who are now going to be able to afford their health insurance in ways that [they]couldn’t.

The second part of this bill closes tax loopholes for about 200 of the biggest corporations in America, those with over $1 billion in profit.

This comes directly from a bill that I wrote with Senator Warren and with Senator King. Today these corporations use armies of lawyers and accountants — that no middle-class family has, no working family has, no small business has — to pay almost nothing in taxes.

Last year Chevron paid an effective rate of 1.8%.

Bank of America paid 3.5%. 3.5%.

That’s after the Trump tax cut cut the corporate rate and took it down to I think it was [21]%, which, by the way, there was no consensus to do. The consensus was at 25%. And here you have companies paying 1.8%, 3.5% in the case of Bank of America. Amazon paid 6.1%. They might want to fire their CFO because they’re paying a little more than the 1.8%, [or] the 3.5%.

AT&T paid negative 4.1%. That means they got money back from the Treasury in tax credits.

In Colorado, a typical firefighter, teacher or police officer has an effective tax rate of somewhere around 16 to 22%.

So on the one hand, you’ve got working Americans paying 20% of their income in an economy that’s barely lifted their incomes in 40 years, while billion-dollar corporations are paying virtually nothing.

I had a conversation the other day with the Teacher of the Year from Colorado. She’s from Glenwood Springs. She said that — she wasn’t complaining, she just was making an observation — she said that 70 to 80% of her colleagues in the middle school in which she teaches and at the high school in Glenwood Springs, have to work two and three jobs just so they can afford to live in Glenwood Springs.

Do we think it’s alright for her to have to pay 22% of her income in taxes and the biggest corporations in America that are making more than $1 billion in income don’t have to pay at least 15%, much less the 20% gift that Donald Trump gave them when the number that everybody had basically agreed to was 25%?

I mean, it is no wonder that Americans think this tax code is rigged against them.

And we start to fix that problem with this bill. It’s not everything that I would have wanted. I think we have a lot more to do to make this tax code fairer, not the least of which is to make permanent the expanded Child Tax Credit that I worked on with Sherrod Brown and Cory Booker [and] Kamala Harris, and the Earned Income Tax Credit that I worked on with Sherrod Brown to give working people the biggest tax cut they had in generations. That’s one of the things not in this bill that I feel really terrible about.

This bill also is limiting the carried interest loophole. Most Americans have no idea what that is, because 99.99999% of

Americans aren’t hedge fund managers. They don’t benefit from this loophole to lower their tax rate and pay less than their assistants or than their secretaries.

That hasn’t stopped my Republican colleagues from telling the American public that this bill would tax working people. That’s what they’re saying.

And I guess that’s true if by working people they mean hedge fund managers — over half of whom base their business in the Cayman Islands — or billion dollar corporations. We are increasing their taxes. That’s true. But there is nothing in this bill that’s raising taxes on American families, nothing. Nothing.

It’s amazing to me people that I meet that simultaneously support the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest people on the theory of trickle down economics, and are opposed to this bill on the theory that somehow the taxes that we’re raising on literally the wealthiest humans in our country and the wealthiest corporations are somehow going to trickle down to people in the workplace.

That’s never going to happen. It never has happened.

The last part of this bill contains energy. And first I think it’s important for us to have some context.

It’s been nearly 50 years since the 1973 oil crisis spurred America to seek energy independence.

It’s been more than 30 years since NASA scientist James Hanson urged Congress to fight climate change, I think, at a hearing held by my predecessor, Tim Wirth.

And until now we haven’t had a plan, we’ve had no plan to accomplish either. We haven’t just stalled. In some cases we’ve actually gone backward, Mr. President.

At home, right now, our use of coal has increased during the Biden Administration.

Abroad, Germany has been forced to reactivate coal plants after Putin’s attack on Ukraine, while other E.U. nations plan on rationing natural gas, or turning on their coal plants.

Instead of leading the world with a coherent approach on these issues, Washington has been deadlocked in the same old tired politics around climate and energy.

And as usual, the American people have paid the price. They’ve paid it at the pump with incomes that have barely budged in this economy.

In Colorado, we’ve paid for it in homes incinerated by record wildfires, mountain passes washed out by mudslides, fields withering in extreme drought that no one has seen for 800 years, the Colorado river in crisis, and a galloping people fear that the American West will somehow be unrecognizable to our grandchildren.

Mr. President, when this deal fell apart ten days ago or so, whatever it was, my heart was broken as a result of that. Because I thought about what Colorado has been going through, and I thought — I had to call

and explain to my 22-year-old, 21-year-old, and 17-year-old daughters that once again we had failed.

And their sense of disbelief, of incredulity — which by the way, I think is shared by every single member of their generation in this country, whether they’re Democrats or whether they’re Republicans or Independents or if they don’t even know what political party they’re in — how can you not deal with this? How can you place this burden on us?

And if we pass this bill, we’re going to be able to look the next generation straight in the eye and say we’re actually living up to our responsibility to you, at least with respect to climate. And that fills me with joy.

And that’s the reason to support this bill and feel good about it. We can’t afford another ten years of dysfunction on these issues. This transition should have started 25 years ago, Mr. President. 25 years ago.

In my opinion, we urgently need a plan, an energy policy, that secures the energy our economy needs and relentlessly lowers climate pollution. In other words, we need to plan for clean energy independence.

And we can start by being honest about where we are. I think that’s really important. Today 60% of our power generation comes from fossil fuels. Only 20% comes from renewables. Over 90% — 90% of our transportation relies on fossil fuels. And less than 3% uses electricity.

Across the economy, 80% of primary energy consumption still comes from fossil fuels. Renewables are just 12%. We’ve made some progress, but to hit our emissions targets, renewables have to scale from 12% today to at least 60% by 2050.

That’s why even under the most ambitious projections, some fossil fuels will likely remain in our energy mix for decades, even through 2050.

Don’t take my word for it. That’s not me saying it. These projections are from the National Academy of Sciences, the International Energy Agency, and Princeton. And that’s the reality that they confront us with.

So when I hear politicians and others whip up Twitter with promises to reject every permit for new infrastructure, they ignore this reality. And I worry that we cede the scientific high ground to critics of climate action, who then paint climate advocates as disconnected or deluded, or even dangerous to the economy. And the only thing that wins are fossil fuels. The only thing that wins is coal.

And I worry sometimes that these claims also repel the very Americans we need to support our energy transition. If our position in the short term is to oppose every new piece of infrastructure, we’re

essentially forcing America to choose between scarcity and higher prices. To choose between either less energy, or higher prices.

I was in Belgium with our colleague Chris Coons [and] met with the deputy prime minister there, who said — we were on our way to Scotland for the climate conference — and he said, we have to meet these climate targets. We have to meet these climate targets in 2050.

And then he said, I don’t know how we’re going to meet them and not lose the middle class. And I said, “What do you mean by that?” And he said, “I don’t know how we’re going to meet them, and not have yellow vests break out all over Europe.”

And we’re seeing that now. We’re seeing that in a world where Putin has cut off Russian oil and Russian gas because of his invasion of Ukraine, the challenges that creates in democratic societies when it comes to energy.

There is no country in the world better positioned on this question, better positioned to lead this transition to clean energy than the United States of America. There’s not a country in Europe. There’s not a country in the Middle East.

China is not better positioned than we are on this. We are the best positioned country in the world to lead this transition. In fact, I think we’re the only country in the world that can lead this transition.

Which, by the way, is why it was such a tragedy when it looked ten days ago this bill wasn’t going anywhere. Because then the rest of the world looks at us and says, why should we do anything if the country that is most capable of being able to do this can’t do it?

And what I want to assure you is that these outcomes of scarcity or higher prices, neither of those outcomes are going to support the broad and durable support that we need to be able to not just pass climate policy, but keep it the law of the land and make sure that it lasts until the next generation of Americans can pick it up from us and say thank you for putting us in a decent position. We’re going to finish the job.

And then if we can’t pass this bill and we can’t make progress on climate change, then what we have instead is our current policy, which is the status quo, which drives up prices, is bad for our national security, and is terrible at reducing emissions.

That’s where we are today. That’s why coal is up, as I said, during the Biden Administration. For a successful transition, we’ve got to smooth the path with domestic energy production now to stabilize prices and bridge our way to a clean energy economy tomorrow.

And to do that we need every tool on the table. This means deploying renewables like wind and solar, which my state has led in. We need to do it at record rates. We need to invest in next-generation technologies, from carbon capture to hydrogen to advanced nuclear.

It means we need to recognize the role that natural gas has played in our transition. Over the last 15 years, replacing coal with natural gas has accounted for 60% of our national carbon reductions. And that’s really good.

But we need to do a lot better, because the time is ticking. And now we have the opportunity, because this bill, to secure America’s position as the global standard for production, modeled on our example in Colorado where we passed the first law to capture fugitive methane when Senator Hickenlooper was our governor, by driving down methane pollution, and strengthening cleanup and monitoring across the supply chain.

The last thing we should accept is the leaking pipes that the status quo allows when we have tools available to do better. And we can’t accept the painful price shocks that the American people have to bear because of our lack of a coherent energy policy.

Fortunately, this bill lays the foundation for a responsible energy policy for the country. And it has the largest investment to fight climate change in the nation’s history.

And it’s full of proposals I’ve worked on for years — proposals to rapidly deploy clean energy and to provide industry the long-term certainty it needs; to boost American manufacturing for wind and solar and batteries to power electric vehicles and our energy grid; to invest $14 billion to help rural communities transition from fossil fuels, along with over $25 billion for environmentally friendly farm and conservation and forest health.

We also have the opportunity in this bill to address the drought that’s ravaging the American West, and to do it in a way that measurably improves the situation of the Colorado River Basin, reflects the interests of the people of my state and other states in the Upper Basin, and actually deals, finally, with the long-term causes of the crisis that we face.

When you add it all up, this bill would put us on track to reduce carbon pollution 40% by the end of the decade. That is light years ahead of where we would be without it.

But even if you don’t care about climate change, you should still like this bill because it lowers costs for families. How does it do that? By increasing the supply of American energy with a responsible approach, while reducing demand for oil and gas by putting more renewables and electric vehicles on the market.

According to a recent study, this bill would reduce the average family’s electricity bill by hundreds of dollars a year. From my perspective, as I said, this transition should have started 25 years ago. And we can’t wait any longer.

Now is the moment to act. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should finally rid America and our allies of the delusion that we can continue to rely on foreign dictators for our energy needs. It should remind us how foolish we have been to surrender the lifeblood of our economy to the whims of tyrants.

So nearly 50 years after the 1973 oil crisis, let’s make this the year that we finally pass a coherent plan for America’s energy independence. Let’s finally organize our thinking, Mr. President, and advance a plan that liberates us from foreign energy and tackles the threat of climate change head-on.

And while we’re at it, let’s reforge the engine of American manufacturing to produce the clean energy we need and to create thousands of good-paying jobs along the way.

Let’s support our European allies by exporting cleaner, American energy so they don’t have to rely on coal or Russian gas to heat their homes through the winter. There is no country in the world better prepared than the United States to lead this effort. And this bill will do more than anything we’ve ever done to strengthen our hand in this regard.

In another era, a proposal like this would have received 70 votes on the Senate floor. Every provision in here is a victory for common sense, and a victory for the American people over special interests

and the status quo.

Frankly, I don’t know how people could request home and say they voted against a balanced approach to achieve energy independence, fight climate change, and lower costs for families at this moment in our history.

I don’t know how you’d go home and say they voted to preserve tax loopholes for hedge fund managers and billion-dollar corporations that no American family can even imagine as they’re paying the rates of taxation that they’re paying.

Or how they voted to let pharmaceutical companies continue to gouge the American people, instead of letting Medicare negotiate on their behalf.

How they voted against reducing our deficit by $300 billion.

But that’s the choice we have in front of us. To me, it’s a choice that’s obvious.

We’ve got to pass this bill. We need to seize the moment to lower costs for American people, to make our tax code a little fairer, to secure our energy independence and spark a new era of clean energy manufacturing and innovation to support our allies and lead the world in a fight against climate change.

And hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, Mr. President, leave something a little bit better for the next generation of Americans.

With that, Mr. President, I thank my colleague from New Jersey for his patience, and I yield the floor.

Originally published at https://www.bennet.senate.gov on August 4, 2022.

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U.S. Senator for Colorado

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