Senate Democrats just passed the biggest climate change bill in U.S. history

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes nearly $370 billion in crucial climate spending.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

After months of wrangling, deal-making, and pork-trading, the Senate on Sunday narrowly passed the Democrats’ sweeping Inflation Reduction Act — and with it, one of the most significant climate change packages in the country’s history.

The 50-50 vote, tipped in the Democrats’ favor by Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking “aye,” came on the heels of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s announcement that he would ultimately back his party’s $750 billion plan to address climate change and energy production, among other things, over the coming decade.

“We must stop pretending that there is only one way to combat global climate change or achieve American energy independence,” the inextricably coal-entangled senator explained. “The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 addresses our nation’s energy and climate crisis by adopting commonsense solutions through strategic and historic investments that allow us to decarbonize while ensuring American energy is affordable, reliable, clean, and secure. The need to balance all of these critical energy priorities is no longer open to debate given the energy threats we face.”

Among the key environmental provisions in the bill are various financial incentives for consumers to purchase electric vehicles and modify their homes with clean-energy infrastructure like solar panels and electric HVAC systems. It also casts a broader net to incentivize not only the purchase of green tech, but the manufacturing of it as well, with tens of billions of dollars earmarked to “support energy reliability and cleaner energy production” while offering “historic investments in American clean energy manufacturing,” per a rundown of the bill provided by Democrats. The bill also includes billions set aside specifically to address environmental inequalities in both disadvantaged as well as rural communities.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Sunday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer heralded the bill as a groundbreaking development in the country’s pivot toward a more sustainable future. Nearly $370 billion of the bill’s total cost is earmarked for climate concerns, and Schumer’s office said the law would reduce U.S. emissions by 40% by 2030.

“This bill will kickstart the era of affordable clean energy in America," Schumer said in a statement. “It’s a game-changer, it’s a turning point, and it’s been a long time in coming.”

And that’s just part of the bill. The broader Inflation Reduction Act also puts billions toward health care needs (although Republican opposition struck down a plan to cap insulin prices at just $35) and, as its name implies, includes general economic adjustments that should, the Democrats claim, address the deficit, corporate tax rates, and IRS compliance.

Zero Republicans voted for the measure. It will now head to the House, which is expected to pass the bill sometime in the coming week. From there it would hit President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.