by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2022 — Extensive pieces of legislation were passed this summer by the 117th Congress, as the most recent wave of legislation makes its way to President Joe Biden’s desk. Everything from climate change, tax reform, healthcare cost reductions, gun safety, background checks, and semiconductor manufacturing have received significant advances thanks to three bills now made into law. The total projected combined spendings of these bills is more than $700 billion over the next seven years, with a $400 billion reduction to the government’s budget.

“Congress is showing that we can, in fact, work together across the aisle to pass meaningful legislation that will save lives,”said Cleveland Area Representative Shontel Brown in a press release. She spoke not only to the heart of the Safer Communities Act, but also to all of the work done by Congress this summer.

Photo of the U.S. Capitol Building, where members of Congress meet to discuss legislation. Photo by Logan Cook, staff writer

The Inflation Reduction Act

        Climate Change Spending

The last bill passed this summer was The Inflation Reduction Act, which narrowly passed the Senate by a 51-50 vote, and made it to the president’s desk Aug. 16. The bill included historical provisions for the healthcare and climate industries in an attempt to create long and short-term investments in the country’s economic system to stabilize the rising costs of inflation.

Senate Democrats put out a statement that hailed this new legislation as, “the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far” as the bill saw a roughly $386 billion investment into energy and climate policy.

This included everything from new investments into U.S. clean energy generation, provisions to clean up pollution in disadvantaged communities, and tax cuts for electric vehicles and energy-efficient technology and appliances.

The bill established a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. This is in line with Paris Climate Accords, which has the ultimate goal of net zero emission by 2050.

        Medicare Expansion

Medicare also saw some significant changes from the bill that would allow the federal government to expand upon the program. Changes include reducing the budget deficit by $300 billion while also putting money back into the hands of the American people. This would be done through free vaccinations for seniors, a reduction down to $35 a month insulin costs, and new out-of-pocket drug expense caps at $2000 by the year 2025.

Along with the changes to Medicare was an expansion of its ability to negotiate prescription drug prices. This would allow for high-cost drugs to be sold to medicare recipients for a cheaper price. The White House believes this change could affect over 5 million people and would allow the government more control in terms of long-term Medicare spending.

        Tax Expansions 

In addition to The Inflation Reduction Act, Congress also introduced an amendment to tax reform that targets the wealthiest Americans and corporations making more than $1 billion annually and who don’t pay at least a 15% tax rate.

There’s also a new 1% fee on stock buybacks that would apply to any publicly-traded corporations. These changes make this bill a long-term revenue generator, with Congress already set to increase funding to the IRS to track down the tax loopholes.

Many democrats have seen this bill as a win in terms of the sweeping provisions for climate change alone.

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Kathy Castor (D-FL) took to Twitter on the signing of the bill, writing, “It’s a Big Climate Deal!”

Many congresspeople are proud of the steps this bill has taken towards funding these often overlooked areas of policy.

However, some in Congress disagree with the bill.

“As currently written, this is an extremely modest piece of legislation that does virtually nothing to address the enormous crises that working families all across this country are facing today,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders from the floor of the Senate Chambers.

The bill falls short for many, as all the provisions in it don’t address short term issues and don’t directly affect current inflation problems in the country.

CHIPS and Science Act

Another bill that was more universally supported by both sides of the aisle was the popularly named CHIPS and Science Act. This bill was signed into law in early August.

The bill approved some $52.7 billion in incentives and was created to combat a massive semiconductor shortage the United States has seen due to supply chain issues with China from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money would go towards creating incentives for companies to build new chip manufacturing locations across the United States. It would also go towards research and development in the technology sector, and workforce training to get Americans into the newly created positions. This is projected to open up 90,000 new jobs in this sector by 2025.

The bill would provide $39 billion, specifically for the manufacturing industry to build new production and research locations across the U.S.

The White House announced, following the bill’s passing, that it would create an interagency group to work with state and local governments and private sector companies. The group would implement projects supported by the bill, with the goal of developing 20 new regional technology hubs across the country in areas that aren’t leading technology centers.

The bill also looked at expanding workforce education concerning technology and science, aiming to create more qualified, prepared workers. This included an $81 billion investment in all aspects of the education system, including funding and research into pre-K through 12 systems to see how education can be improved. It also includes added provisions for the National Science Foundation to support research into STEM teaching in rural schools to improve student participation and advancement in STEM.

Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C. The Supreme Court is part of the Department of Justice, which received funding under the Safer Communities Act for intervention and outreach programs. Photo by Logan Cook, staff writer

The Safer Communities Act

Earlier this summer, Congress created the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a bill that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described as, “advanced legislation for the first time in three decades.”

Over $13 billion in federal funding was designated in the bill to expand upon safety and health initiatives in every state, bolster in-school mental health resources, provide additional mental health training to physicians and first responders, and ensure improved safety development across all of America’s communities. This will make it harder for guns to fall into the wrong hands.

The bill targets a highly criticized “boyfriend” loophole in domestic assault cases. The bill made it so now convicted domestic abusers in dating relationships are added to the criminal background check system, along with enhanced background checks to look into the juvenile and mental health records for anyone under the age of 21.

This ensures more time and consideration is put into the process of purchasing a firearm.

Along with this, came the creation of new federal offenses to tackle straw purchasing (purchasing weapons for people prohibited from doing so) and gun trafficking. This addressed an often overlooked part of gun reform and is a change many in Congress were looking for, as the effects of gun violence grew over 2022.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman commented on the bill in a press release, saying, “The Safer Communities Act takes common-sense steps to improve access to mental health, protect America’s children, improve school safety, and reduce the threat of gun violence across our country while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

This is a sentiment shared by many Republicans and Democrats alike in the capitol building.

President Joe Biden also commented on the bill in a speech at the White House, saying, “This bill is far from perfect. It’s a compromise. But it is — it’s often how progress is made: by compromises.”

He and many in the Democratic party are happy about being able to accomplish something for the American people, and the response from the public has been supportive and approving.

Biden gave his best regards to Congress’s busy summer and all of the funding and policy development that took place in the past three months.

“Making progress in a country as big and complicated as ours is not easy. It never has been. But with unwavering conviction, commitment, and patience, progress does come. These past few weeks have proven that,” he said.

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