U.S. Senator Bob Casey, during a visit to Erie on Tuesday, called the Cut Inflation Act — passed by the Senate after a marathon weekend debate by lawmakers — one of the most in US history with respect to health care, climate change and deficit reduction strategies.
“We had a time when we could actually push something through, and we had to do something,” Casey, a Scranton Democrat, said before touring the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority headquarters at 127 E.14th St. .
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Casey, who voted for the legislation on Sunday, was at EMTA to celebrate more than $6 million in new federal funding for the region’s largest transit agency.
“If we had waited eight or ten years to do so, it would be far too late. It would have been ‘game over,’” Casey said. “I believe this may have been the last chance for the federal government to act on climate change in our lifetimes.”
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The passage of the estimated $740 billion package was applauded by President Joe Biden over the weekend.
The legislation would invest nearly $375 billion over the next decade in various climate change strategies, including investments in renewable energy generation and tax rebates for consumers to buy new electric vehicles or second hand.
It also includes clean energy manufacturing tax credits and wind and solar power generation tax credits to reduce the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels. The bill also provides tax credits for nuclear energy and carbon capture technology.
On health care, the bill would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 for seniors and help Americans pay for private health insurance.
Nearly half of the money raised through the bill, about $300 billion, will be used to pay down federal deficits.
The bill is funded by new corporate taxes, including a 15% minimum tax on large corporations, as well as anticipated federal savings from lower Medicare drug costs.
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Votes fell strictly along party lines in the 50-50 Senate, with all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed and Vice President Kamala Harris providing a deciding vote for passage 51-50.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill by Friday and send it to the White House for Biden’s signature.
The Senate wrangling over the bill also included hours of debate on Saturday and multiple votes on amendments to the bill, which reached the Senate floor after months of negotiations between two powerful Democrats, the majority leader in the Senate Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
While in Erie on Tuesday, Casey said the bill would significantly reduce Americans’ energy and health care costs.
“If you’re a senior, in particular, it will help because of the lower prescription drug costs,” he said. “A very large number of seniors are paying through their nose to pay for prescription drugs. Capping these costs will be extremely beneficial.
On energy and climate change, Casey said, “It’s a huge investment. And you don’t do it with a magic wand. You do it with tax credits and other ways to incentivize Americans and businesses.
“These efforts could lead to a 40% reduction in emissions before 2030,” Casey said. “Think about it. The President has set a target of 50% reduction by 2030. This bill gets us almost there and most of the experts who have looked at this bill think we can get the other 10% taking further action. This is a giant step forward.”
Casey was at EMTA on Tuesday to discuss the transit agency’s federal funding allocations during the pandemic, which includes just over $6 million from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act and the job of 2021.
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EMTA received approximately $30 million in federal funding, collectively, from this bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act stimulus package, and the US bailout.
He said such funding is important for agencies like EMTA, which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of revenue and loss of ridership, to help maintain “public transit reliable and affordable.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.