Brooklyn, NY – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered about Senate passage of the historic Inflation Reduction Act. Below is the interview:
Reporter: And we're joined now by someone at the center of all of these negotiations, that is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Welcome back to All Things Considered, Senator.
Schumer: Juana, Kelsey, good to be with both of you.
Reporter: We're glad to have you. Senator, this started out as a $3.5 trillion spending package and it has now been scaled back to $700 billion. What have you learned in this process?
Schumer: Well, the thing I've learned, which has always been with me, and if I had to describe one word that helped me get this done, it was persistence. We reached a lot of dead ends, but you know, my father passed away in November and he’s still here sitting with me. He taught me one thing: if you're doing the right thing, and you persist, as he put it, God will reward you and you'll succeed. Well, we persisted. There were a lot of dead ends, but I kept at it. And now we have probably the most significant piece of legislation in decades, particularly on climate.
It's the boldest climate legislation ever. To give you an example, you talked about the previous bill, it reduced the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere by 45% by 2030 – a very bold goal. We keep it at 40%, which is huge. Our world is going to be a better place. We're going to reduce the scourge of global warming.
But in addition, two other things that had been sought in Congress for decades are happening.
One, we are making the cost of prescription drugs a lot lower. For the first time, Medicare will be allowed to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to bring down the price. We beat them even though they're very powerful. And also in this bill, insulin for Medicare people will only be $35 a month. It had gone up to $600-700 a month; diabetics were suffering. And no one will pay more than $2,000 a year for prescription drugs. So people, particularly poorer people, middle income people, who had to pay $500 a pill and didn't know how they were going to get these life saving medicines is there.
Two final points - there's so much in this bill - I'll be quick. We close tax loopholes for the first time. Big corporations, which now pay no taxes, will have to pay 15%, and furthermore, we've increased I.R.S. audits only on people who make above $400,000 a year. Trump had said no auditing of rich people, and they've gotten away with so much. Now that changes. With this, we reduced the deficit by $300 billion as well. So it's really significant. It took a lot of work. And it doesn't have everything everyone wants, including myself, but it was well worth it.
Reporter: Alright senator there is a lot to get through here as you point out. I want to start with climate, which you brought up. That 40% that you talked about is still short of President Biden's goal of at least 50% and according to a Princeton University research project, that's not a massive difference from what the U.S. is already on track to accomplish without this legislation.
Schumer: No. Not true.
Reporter: Is progress is progress on climate action too modest here?
Schumer: Well we’d always like it bigger, but the Biden Bill was 45%. Five percent of his 50% was Administrative action, which will still be there. Ours is 40%. So it's very, very, very close. And every expert on climate, even the most progressive, say this is massive. We have to start reducing the amount of carbon that goes into our atmosphere and this does it far more than anything has ever done before. Second, I spoke to Secretary Kerry, John Kerry, he's going around the globe and trying to convince other countries to stop doing this. And they kept saying, ‘U.S. you've done nothing. Why should we do something?’ He called me after this passed, he said this is going to have a multiplier effect, because now other countries will do the same.
Reporter: I want to talk now about the economic impact for Americans. You and members of your party point to things like extending Affordable Care Act subsidies and the prescription drug measures to lower health care costs. But as I understand it the ACA subsidies keep costs where they currently are, the prescription drug measures don't start to kick in until 2025 at the soonest. Can you point to anything in this bill that lowers those costs immediately?
Schumer: Yes – insulin [for Medicare beneficiaries]. The insulin costs go down much quicker than 2025. They start in the beginning of 2023. And that's probably the most widespread, expensive drug that people can't afford and need in the country. The ACA subsidies – we made them much better a year in ARP [the American Rescue Plan]. They were going to go down this year, right before October of 2022. They now stay good for three years and they're expanding. So some people whose income was a little too high to get them will now be able to get them. So those are huge, huge changes. In addition, the negotiations start in 2026, but it's much sooner when people start paying less for certain drugs because of the $2,000 cap.
Reporter: Senator, you've mentioned insulin. There were not enough Republicans to support a $35 monthly cap, but there were some. And we're talking about a cost here that, as you well know, that impacts millions of Americans. So, I want to ask you, are there plans to revisit this with Republicans?
Schumer: Yes. First, let's get it clear. We did win on anyone on Medicare: no one on Medicare will pay more than $35, and that's a lot of people. But we had to get 60 votes for the non-Medicare people with insurance. We needed 60. We got all 50 Democrats, we did get seven Republicans. We're going to bring that back in the fall because there's going to be huge heat on Republicans. Let's remember this; insulin was invented in 1920 or discovered, I guess, in 1921 or 22, and the doctor who discovered it was a generous man, he charged $1 for the patent. So, when the companies are charging 600, 700 dollars for insulin, it's not because they have to recoup their costs of finding a new drug or whatever: it's just greed, and we have to get it reduced and we will.
Reporter: Senator, I do have to ask you about the politics here. What does this bill, the process it took to pass it, the time, what does it say about the political climate in the Senate right now, especially as we head into November's midterm elections?
Schumer: Well, I think it's, you know, a lot of people are very worried that the Republican Party has become a MAGA party. If you look at the Supreme Court decisions on choice, and on guns, and on climate, they're awful. If you look at the January 6 hearings, it shows, you know, Trump's influence on this party has moved away to the right. But they kept wondering, can Democrats who control things, admittedly by a very narrow margin, you know, a 50-50 Senate running from Joe Manchin to Bernie Sanders is not very easy to manage. And it's a difficult job, although I keep persisting at it, as I said. But they say ‘can the Democrats get anything done?’
In the last month we have done six major things, not just this bill, which is the most significant, but the CHIPS bill, which will rebring chip manufacturing back to the U.S., away from China and other places, and reduce our costs of automobiles and appliances. We did the PACT bill, the biggest change for veterans and health care, those who are exposed to toxins overseas, will get health care. We did the gun [safety] bill. So, there's a lot we got done. And I think people see that, and I think it will benefit us.
Reporter: All right, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, thank you so much.
Schumer: Thank you, nice to talk to you. Take care.