North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr walked into the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol Saturday morning wearing shorts, sandals and a suit jacket.
A photo of Burr’s fashion faux pas sent Twitter into a frenzy. But it would be his and Sen. Thom Tillis’ vote on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 that most people ended up remembering.
The $740 billion energy, climate, healthcare and tax bill creates at least $300 billion in investments aimed at climate change, lowers the price of prescription medications and creates a new minimum tax rate of 15% on large corporations.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer caught Republicans off-guard two weeks earlier when he announced he, Sen. Joe Manchin — a Democrat from West Virginia — and the Biden administration had come to an agreement on the inflation bill, something both Democrats and Republicans had lost faith in happening.
Senate Democrats passed the bill 51-50 Sunday, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote after more than 15 hours of debate.
It was a party-line vote, and since North Carolina only has Republican senators that means both Tillis and Burr voted against it.
“It’s an insult to the intelligence of North Carolinians when politicians like President Biden and Governor Cooper claim that raising taxes and spending $740 billion on their far-left priorities will actually reduce inflation and stop the Biden recession,” Tillis said in a news release Sunday. “I voted against this reckless tax and spending spree because it will cause more pain for North Carolinians already struggling to fill up their gas tanks and pay for their groceries and other essential goods their families need.”
Debate on the bill began Saturday morning and stretched into Sunday. Senators went back and forth on numerous amendments, but one subjected Burr and Tillis to vehement backlash from their constituents: a $35 cap on insulin from private insurance companies.
A contentious cap on insulin prices
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough — who serves as the chamber’s official adviser and rule keeper — deemed an insulin price cap for private insurers a violation of the Senate’s rules for the reconciliation process to pass the bill on a bare majority. Senate Democrats sought to overrule MacDonough’s decision in a vote that needed 60 supporting members.
The New York Times reported that, despite the rule violation, Democrats “dared” Republicans to vote against the cap by keeping the provision in the bill.
Tillis and Burr rarely cave to such political pressure. Both voted against capping insulin costs along with 43 other Republicans, forcing the provision to fail.
Several people took to social media Sunday and Monday ridiculing the North Carolina Senators for their ostensible apathy toward insulin users. The posts and tweets were laced with profanity.
North Carolina’s Democratic Party spokeswoman Ellie Dougherty capitalized on the social media climate.
“While President Biden and Democrats are working day in and day out to lower the cost of prescription drugs, reduce the deficit and fight rising costs without raising taxes a single penny on middle class families, Burr and Tillis’ vote underscores the GOP’s commitment to protecting Big Pharma and special interests over easing costs for North Carolina families,” she said.
Senate candidates weigh in
Senate candidate Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, immediately took to Twitter.
“Both NC senators just voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, which would lower costs at a time when millions of families are struggling,” she wrote. “North Carolinians deserve more. As Senator, I will always fight for the people — not cower to corporate special interests.”
Her Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Rep. Ted Budd, shot back, “Cheri Beasley just endorsed a tax increase during a recession. She would be Joe Biden’s Senator, I’ll be working families’ Senator.”
Budd and Beasley are facing off in the midterm to replace the retiring Burr, who announced he would not run for reelection after almost 30 years in Congress.
Inflation bill moves to the House
The U.S. House began a 45-day recess last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she’s bringing members back Friday to vote on Biden’s inflation bill.
North Carolina’s representatives have been largely quiet on the issue, though a few have taken to social media to let their constituents know where they stand.
Rep. Kathy Manning, a Democrat from the Triad, said in a tweet she is proud to support the bill.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes a provision from Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat from Wake County, that would repeal the 10-year offshore wind leasing moratorium off the coast of North Carolina and the three states to its south.
“The Inflation Reduction Act is a transformational package that will mark the single greatest investment we’ve made to combat the climate crisis in our history,” Ross said in a news release. “To reach our ambitious climate goals, we must unleash the full power of American clean energy — and that includes offshore wind energy development.”
Their Republican colleague Dan Bishop, of Charlotte, retweeted the House Freedom Caucus’ statement opposing the bill.
Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican of Pitt County, spoke out directly in a tweet saying, “The #ManchinSchumer bill is nothing but a job-killing partisan gimmick that will destroy innovation, raise consumer costs and worsen inflation.”