WASHINGTON (CN) — A climate change and health care package is primed to make its way through House goal posts, a stunning coup for the Biden administration after the Democratic majority leader of the Senate found middle ground this week with the coal-rooted Senator Joe Manchin.
Manchin, a centrist Democrat in the largely red state of West Virginia, told reporters the deal was not about fueling the party's goals but about backing policies he felt should be bipartisan interests.
"The best politics is good government. Let's do something for the country. This is not being Democrat, this is not being Republican. I didn't do anything to help either side," he said in a Zoom call with reporters Thursday.
Only a few weeks earlier, Manchin said he would not support a reconciliation package until additional data came out about the state of inflation. Manchin said the negotiations were not easy and that talks with the Senate's Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer became tense after inflation numbers came in two weeks ago, reflecting a 9.1% surge in consumer prices over the past year.
"That 9.1 came in. 'I just can't I just can't do it. No,' I said. And then that's when Chuck got upset," Manchin recalled.
Manchin said the deal came together Tuesday evening.
"Inflation is not going to go away any time soon," Manchin acknowledged, but he said he is backing the legislation because it contains policies that he feels will provide some relief to economic woes.
Manchin's assertions that the federal government needs to reign in a burgeoning deficit put the senator at odds with party leaders and President Joe Biden for more than a year. The West Virginia Democrat contributed heavily to the collapse of Build Back Better, a $2 trillion climate and economic policy proposal that Manchin declared "dead" in February.
"All of you, I know, might be surprised," Manchin said Thursday. "But there should be no surprise because I've never walked away from anything in my life. I just felt there was an opportunity here to really give us an energy policy with security that we need for our nation, but also driving down the high price of gasoline. Driving down inflation was my No. 1 goal."
Manchin's stated goal is even reflected in the name of the bill, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which otherwise tackles the Democratic Party's long-held goals of reducing carbon emissions and empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Coupled with a series of changes to tax and Medicare laws that will raise $739 billion in revenue over 10 years, paying for the cost of the package and lowering the national deficit by $300 billion, the deal includes $433 billion in new climate and health care spending.
The bill also includes a $369 billion investment in energy and climate change programs over 10 years. That alone is the largest investment in climate spending in American history.
"This is geopolitical, it's many things, but we think we can walk and chew gum at the same time and have a balanced approach, and have new investments in new clean technology," Manchin said.
Another $65 billion will extend subsidies under former President Barack Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act, for people purchasing their own insurance. The aid program was set to expire this year, but will now be funded through 2025.
Biden said during a speech on Thursday that the subsidy program will save 13 million people an average of $800 a year on their health care costs.
Policies to generate revenue are laced throughout the new spending. One such provision would empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, a perennial goal of Democrats that will save an estimated $288 billion over 10 years.