SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Today is a big day for Senate Democrats as they begin debate over their bill to address climate change. It was once the centerpiece of their party's agenda, but it has shrunk and now has as much to do with health care and deficit reduction as it does providing incentives for renewable energy. All 50 members of the Democratic Conference have signaled support, but it's still far from a done deal. We're now joined by NPR political reporter Deepa Shivaram.
Deepa, thanks very much for being with us.
DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.
SIMON: What's happening with the bill today? How soon could it get passed?
SHIVARAM: Yeah. So this afternoon, Chuck Schumer, who's the majority leader, is planning to introduce the bill on the floor. And because it's getting passed through what's called a budget reconciliation process, there are some extra rules added. Both sides get up to 20 hours of debate to talk about the legislation. That's 20 hours split evenly between both parties. And then they move into what's known as vote-a-rama. This is where senators can introduce an unlimited number of amendments to the bill, and it can take hours. The Democrats are likely to yield back most of their debate time. So we're really just watching to see how long Republicans want to drag this out into the weekend.
SIMON: Getting everybody in the Democratic Conference to agree was a long and difficult process. How did it finally come about?
SHIVARAM: So that was the back and forth this past week, whether or not Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema would get on board with the bill. On Thursday night, she announced she would it, quote, "move forward with it after a few changes were made." And the first change was that she wanted the part of the bill that narrowed what's called the carried interest tax loophole to be removed. That part essentially changed the way private equity income is taxed. And what Sinema wanted added was an excise tax on stock buybacks. She also wanted funding for drought resiliency, which other senators have also called for. But Sinema isn't the only one here who has expressed reservations.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said this week that he doesn't believe the bill does enough to tackle issues that working-class Americans are facing. He says there's nothing in the bill for increasing the minimum wage or making child care more affordable or eliminating student debt. And Sanders isn't likely to block the bill from passing, but he has said he'll introduce a number of amendments on the floor that would bring up these concerns. And when the bill goes to the House next week, progressive members there might also push back, but they've been mostly quiet so far.
SIMON: This is potentially a big win for Democrats in, obviously, a year of midterm elections. What has President Biden said so far?
SHIVARAM: Yeah. It is a pretty big portion of his domestic agenda that's set to pass here. So it's looking like a good week for President Biden. He spoke a little bit about the bill at an event at the White House yesterday. Take a listen.
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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: In short, this bill is a game changer for working families and our economy. I look forward to the Senate taking up this legislation and passing it as soon as possible.
SHIVARAM: And this isn't the only part of Biden's agenda that's moved forward in recent days. He's signing into law gun control legislation prompted by recent mass shootings, a bill on semiconductors that boosts American manufacturers and a bill on veterans benefits that provides aid to veterans exposed to toxins. And it's worth adding here that all of these measures had bipartisan support. There's a lot of momentum here for Biden already. And the Inflation Reduction Act is another point of success. For Democrats who are facing an uphill midterm election in just a few months, like you mentioned, this is a week they'll keep pointing back to.
SIMON: NPR's Deepa Shivaram.
Thanks so much.
SHIVARAM: Thank you.
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