Missoula Current

Montana's two U.S. senators split their vote Sunday on a sweeping piece of legislation that one contends will drive down the debt and cut costs for families while the other has labeled it a reckless spending bill.

Along party line votes, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to create both traditional and renewable energy, rein in health care and lower the nation's debt.

Sen. Jon Tester voted for the measure and Sen. Steve Daines opposed. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the 50-50 tie and the bill now moves to the House, which is expected to pass the measure this week.

“The Inflation Reduction Act will pay down the debt by hundreds of billions of dollars, lower costs for families, cut prescription drug prices, and unleash American energy, all without raising taxes on working Montanans,” Tester said in a Sunday statement.

Tester described the bill as the largest debt reduction effort in more than 10 years – a move advocates believe will fight inflation and grow the economy.

Tester highlighted a number of provisions in the bill, saying it will allow Medicare to use its purchasing power to negotiate drug prices. It also will cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 a year.

On the energy side, Tester said the bill will expand offshore oil and gas leasing, enable the Department of Interior to develop renewable energy on public lands, and extend tax credits for investment in renewable energy.

“I fought to make sure this bill is fully paid for and will cut costs for Americans while making us less reliant on foreign adversaries like Russia to power our country,” Tester said. “I’ve heard directly from folks in every corner of our state asking me to find solutions that will bring down costs and help our country maintain its place as the leading economic power in the world, and that’s exactly what the Inflation Reduction Act does.”

Daines offered a different view of the legislation, calling the $739 billion measure a reckless tax and spend bill.

Daines had offered a slate of amendments over the weekend that ultimately failed.

“As Montanans continue to struggle with sky-high prices on everything from gas to groceries to housing, every single Senate Democrat voted to raise energy costs, give taxpayer dollars to the rich for electric vehicles, increase taxes and supersize the IRS to go after small businesses and families — it’s a slap in the face to Montana families,” Daines said.

After the measure passed, Daines suggested the bill would raise taxes, citing an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation. According to a statement provided by Daines, those earning less than $200,000 per year will see a $16.7 billion tax increase.

Daines also said the measure includes “massive” taxes on oil and gas producers and would raise the cost of fuel.

“The Democrats’ reckless tax and spend bill is bad for Montana families, bad for Montana energy jobs and bad for Montanans’ pocketbooks,” Daines said.

Republicans did vote with Democrats on certain aspects of the bill, including an insulin amendment. Other measures pushed by left-leaning Democrats also failed, including a progressive push to include additional changes around the child tax credit.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project was among the first to laud the measure's passage, saying it will create good-paying jobs, cut energy costs and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign energy.

“On behalf of the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, I sincerely thank the U.S. Senate for voting to advance the Inflation Reduction Act today,” said Elise Jones, the organization's executive director.