Democrats had a spring in their step Thursday at the Capitol. A bipartisan bill investing billions in the U.S. semiconductor industry – known as the CHIPS and Science Act – is heading for the president’s desk. And, in a surprise twist, major legislation combating climate change, lowering health care costs, and taxing corporations has sprung back to life after centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia struck a deal midweek with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Suddenly, the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda is back, and Democrats facing severe head winds in the November midterm elections have more to run on – if the deal passes.
“The choice is between doing this very substantial piece of legislation, which includes a lot of things that our constituents have been clamoring for, or doing absolutely nothing,” moderate New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski, an endangered Democrat, told our congressional correspondent Christa Case Bryant and me Thursday in a Capitol corridor.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, was confident that fellow progressives would back the compromise, given the stakes: “In case people haven’t noticed, the Earth is on fire.”
The bill formerly known as Build Back Better is now called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 – a bold rebranding effort, given its $433 billion in spending. But former Democratic Treasury Secretary Larry Summers – an inflation hawk – says the legislation would, in fact, lower prices. Mr. Summers reportedly reassured Senator Manchin on that point, helping seal the deal.
Inflation, running at a 40-year high, is an everyday reminder to consumers (voters!) that the economy is out of whack. Yesterday’s news that the U.S. economy shrank for a second straight quarter signaled that we’re either in a recession or may well soon be.
But Democrats are now suddenly a bit more optimistic. They hope to vote on the new climate-health-tax package soon under a Senate procedure that requires just a simple majority. One big remaining question is whether Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will go along. In a 50-50 Senate, every vote matters.
The clock is ticking. Democrats may well lose their House majority in November. For President Biden’s agenda, do-or-die time is fast approaching.