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US House passes Inflation Reduction Act; West Virginia’s delegates oppose package

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s U.S. House of Representatives members joined their Republican colleagues in opposing a domestic policy package as the chamber passed the measure.

The House approved the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday in a 220-207 party-line vote; the chamber returned to Washington, D.C. during its district work period to consider the proposal. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., voted in person, while Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., designated Mooney the authority to cast her vote under the House’s proxy voting guidelines. Around 38% of House members submitted letters about remote voting before the Friday afternoon action.

President Joe Biden announced Friday evening that he will sign the legislation next week.

“Today, the American people won. Special interests lost,” Biden tweeted.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes provisions granting Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug costs, limiting out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 annually, and setting the price of insulin to $35 for Medicare patients. The plan also extends subsidies for Affordable Care Act health insurance plans for three years. Around 23,000 West Virginians would see premiums increase if the bill does not take effect.

The measure would additionally dedicate funding for consumer energy rebates, investments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and clean energy technology. Energy manufacturers would be eligible for tax credits for utilizing sites in communities impacted by coal’s decline, and there would be a tax credit for creating a hydrogen energy hub.

Language in the bill also permanently extends funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Around $300 billion would go toward deficit reduction. Revenue would be generated through a 15% corporate minimum tax, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and the IRS enforcing existing tax law.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

The legislative package was the byproduct of discussions between Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Democrats struggled to get Manchin’s support for a sweeping package until late last month when the West Virginia moderate announced the deal with Schumer. The Inflation Reduction Act leaves out multiple items from last year’s Build Back Better framework, including universal preschool and the child tax credit.

The 50-50 Senate passed the measure on Sunday, in which Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the tie-breaking vote. Manchin and Democrats approved the measure, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito joined Republicans in voting against passage.

Republicans have criticized the legislation, citing the nation’s inflation rate and doubts about the bill’s effectiveness in addressing the matter in their arguments. The Penn Wharton Business Model stated Friday the bill would reduce deficits by $264 billion over 10 years, but it would not have “any measurable impact on inflation.”

“The so-called ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ is merely their reckless ‘Build Back Better’ plan in sheep’s clothing,” McKinley stated.

Miller said the bill’s provisions were “a laundry list of tax hikes and spending increases” that will hurt households struggling amid current financial conditions.

“As families grapple with record high gas prices and costs of living, the Schumer-Manchin tax increase and spending package will kick them when they’re down,” she said.

Democrats contend the legislation will not result in higher taxes for Americans making less than $400,000 a year.

Additional Republican concerns come from the inclusion of tax enforcement; lawmakers — including McKinley and Mooney — have shared claims the IRS will hire 87,000 additional agents to conduct audits.

“Rather than hiring more border patrol agents to stop the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants over the border, they want to hire more IRS agents,” McKinley stated Friday.

Following the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate — in which agents recovered sensitive recordsMooney said Monday such action was “exactly why the IRS shouldn’t get an army of 87,000 more agents.”

The Treasury Department issued a report in May 2021 noting that increased funding for the IRS would allow the agency to hire 87,000 employees by 2031. According to TIME, the hires would involve various fields and workers replacing employees who depart from the agency.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told senators in an Aug. 3 letter the agency has fewer employees than “any time since the 1970s.”

“For too long, the agency has not had the resources that it needs to ensure the tax laws are enforced fairly and that Americans receive the level and quality of service they deserve,” Retting said. “We are the greatest country in the world, yet the agency that touches more Americans than any other continually struggles to receive sufficient resources to fulfill its important mission.”

Rettig also noted the IRS would utilize the allocation for improving technology and services.

“Enhanced IT systems and taxpayer service will actually mean that honest taxpayers will be better able to comply with the tax laws, resulting in a lower likelihood of being audited and a reduced burden on them,” he added.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has instructed Rettig to not use funds for auditing households and small businesses making below $400,000 annually.

“Instead, enforcement resources will focus on high-end noncompliance,” Yellen stated Aug. 10 in a letter. “There, sustained, multi-year funding is so critical to the agency’s ability to make the investments needed to pursue a robust attack on the tax gap by targeting crucial challenges, like large corporations, high-net-worth individuals and complex pass-throughs, where today the IRS has resources to initiate just 7,500 audits annually out of more than 4 million returns received.”

Mooney, who defeated McKinley in the May primary for the new 2nd Congressional District, has denounced Manchin for the bill. The Mooney campaign released an advertisement claiming the Inflation Reduction Act would “devastate West Virginia communities.”

“Joe Manchin stands with Joe Biden, not with West Virginia,” the advertisement’s announcer states.

Manchin is not up for re-election until 2024 when Mooney could challenge him for the seat. The senator did not address the congressman’s argument during Thursday’s “MetroNews Talkline.”

“I’ve always said, ‘If I can’t come home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ I can explain every part of this bill here,” he said.

His office pointed to the senator’s appearance when MetroNews asked about Mooney ahead of the House vote.

“This bill is the result of months of negotiations, and I’m proud of our work to get it across the finish line,” the senator said Friday in a press release.

The Inflation Reduction Act is tied to Congress’ planned consideration of permitting changes once legislators return to Capitol Hill in September. The proposal includes language speeding up projects and the completion of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, a system capable of transporting natural gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia.

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