Entering the 13th of 15 hours of what’s been jovially referred to as “vote-a-rama” in D.C. this past weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders was photographed draped in a slice of shade on the steps outside the Capitol.

Although Sanders himself was vocal about his dissatisfaction with the reduced scope of the bill being voted on, the senator from Vermont found himself in the minority. Sanders went back inside and voted yes, in the end, supporting the passing of the 755-page $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act, an historic legislative victory celebrated by most all of his Democratic colleagues.

The landmark climate-, health care- and tax-focused package, a pared-back version of Democrats’ Build Back Better attempt of last year, passed by 51-50 in the Senate, the deciding vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris. It moves on to the House, which it’s expected to clear by the end of the week.

Our View: Congress gets its last, best chance at meaningful climate action

It’s true that this budget reconciliation bill started off as something much bigger. But the deal — sweeping and indeed “signature,” even in its reduced form — provides unprecedented tax incentives for the reduction of carbon emissions; opens the door for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug pricing; extends subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act by three years; earmarks a major cash infusion for the embattled IRS, and caps seniors’ out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs at $2,000 per year.

The climate part of the bill represents the most significant environmental action the U.S. has ever prepared to take. In the wake of devastating flooding, bone-dry river basins and even the record-breaking heat that Mainers have been tussling with this summer, roughly $370 billion is being set aside for climate change mitigation. By one estimate, the deal has the potential to bring greenhouse-gas pollution down to levels 40% lower than 2005 by 2030. The investment will lend America new and needed environmental credibility on the world stage. The bill finally sets the country’s transition to renewable energy in motion.

On top of that, the bill will pay for itself. Revenue is being raised by a new 15% corporate minimum tax (yielding more than $300 billion alone), the prescription drug price reform, a new 1% excise tax on ever more popular corporate stock buybacks and increased tax enforcement by a better-resourced IRS. The package raises taxes only for people earning north of $400,000 every year.

Our View: Sen. King is right – IRS is barking up the wrong tree with its audits

Those celebrating are right to celebrate.

In order for the bill to defy expectations and pass the Senate, compromise featured in the painstaking negotiations — heavily in places. Concessions were made on fossil fuels, for example, that directly affect pipeline projects in Sen. Joe Manchin’s home state of West Virginia — which donate to him handsomely. Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, too, insisted on the elimination of a proposal that would have limited investment earnings paid out to finance executives before her vote could help the bill over the line.

But that’s the point: the bill made it over the line. It provides America with a basis for a better economic and environmental future and proves that, despite the false starts, meaningful progress is achievable.

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