President Joe Biden didn’t explicitly call for people to get out the vote, but at his White House event on Tuesday, celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, he and other Democrats certainly didn’t miss a chance to contrast their agenda to Republicans.
The event on the South Lawn drew thousands of people, as one of the biggest gatherings that the Biden administration has hosted at the White House. In the crowd were House and Senate Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as union leaders and members, cabinet secretaries and other executive branch officials. The White House sent out invitations far and wide, hoping to build buzz for the climate and health legislation, and the event opened with a performance by James Taylor, who headlined fund-raising events for Biden in 2020.
Missing from the crowd: Republicans. None voted for the bill, as they have set their sights on hammering Democrats for high inflation. That was evident earlier in the day, as the latest Consumer Price Index number was higher than expected, sending the stock market in a nose dive.
Major cable news networks carried the speech, but eventually broke away.
Walking back and forth on a makeshift stage, with the Truman Balcony in the background, Biden gave a feisty speech in which he called out certain senators, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the latter of whom is up for re-election. Scott and Johnson have proposed regular votes on whether to renew Social Security and Medicare, as well as a host of other government programs and benefits, the president noted.
“It’s hard to believe. I would think I am exaggerating if I didn’t look at it myself,” Biden said.
Biden devoted much of his speech to casting the legislation as a victory over special interests, including pharmaceutical companies and major corporations. Business lobbyists opposed a provision that established a 15% minimum tax. “The days of companies paying zero in taxes are over,” Biden said.
The legislation, signed last month, includes $369 billion for energy and climate programs over the next decade, including tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and other credits for home solar energy. The bill also includes $64 billion to extend Affordable Care Act benefits, and $4 billion to address the drought in western states. Another $300 billion in the bill would be directed to deficit reduction.
The bill would be financed by a new 15% corporate minimum tax, raising an estimated $222 billion, according to congressional estimates. The provision was intended to capture large companies with at least $1 billion in profit that, because of accounting maneuvers and write-offs, pay at a lower rate or no federal corporate tax. Another $265 billion would come from prescription drug pricing reform, and Medicare will be allowed to negotiate for the cost of prescription drugs. An estimated $74 billion would come from a 1% fee on stock buybacks.
Taylor sang Fire and Rain, You Can Close Your Eyes and America the Beautiful, telling the crowd, “What a beautiful day it is, and what a hopeful moment it is too.”
Also spotted in the crowd: Screenwriter Billy Ray and political consultant Mathew Littman, who leads the Entertainment Industry Working Group, a set of politically engaged actors, writers and other creatives.
More to come.
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