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Coons says health, tax, climate package will pass; admits delayed impact on inflation

ABC News logo ABC News 8/7/2022
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Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, one of President Joe Biden's closest allies, said Sunday he was confident the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) would pass -- but conceded that any impact the legislation has on inflation would not be immediate.

"I have no doubts at all," Coons told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos when asked if he thought the party-line tax, climate and health care package would be approved amid a marathon series of amendment votes that was still ongoing as of late Sunday morning.

"The Democrats in our Senate caucus have stayed unified throughout the night," Coons said. "Every single amendment vote of the dozens we've taken so far -- we've defeated Republican efforts to knock down this important, even landmark, piece of legislation that will reduce prescription drug prices, reduce health care costs, reduce the deficit and make a big down payment on combating climate change."

Stephanopoulos pressed Coons on the Democratic argument about deflation, which is key to how the package is branded.

MORE: Democrats advance the Inflation Reduction Act, setting up Senate 'vote-a-rama'

The Congressional Budget Office has said it would have a “negligible impact” on inflation in the short term.

"Is it really fair to call it the Inflation Reduction Act?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"This is going to reduce the costs that hit American families in their pocketbook ... It’s going to make for a more secure and stable and cleaner and more affordable future for American families," Coons argued.

Still, on the timeline for inflation to be reduced, he admitted that "it may take a year or more" and said, "We may not see huge impacts on inflation in the first or second year."

"Yes, inflation is higher than it should be. But we just got a robust jobs number of more than 500,000 jobs created this past month," Coons said. "Unemployment, the lowest it's been in my lifetime. And I think we've got a strong recovery underway."

Sen. Chris Coons speaks with reporters near the Senate Subway at the U.S. Capitol. © Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP, FILE Sen. Chris Coons speaks with reporters near the Senate Subway at the U.S. Capitol.

Stephanopoulos noted criticism even among some Democratic allies over the IRA, which was the product of a deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., took to the Senate floor twice last week to criticize the bill, saying in one speech that the legislation "does virtually nothing to address the enormous crises facing the working families of our country."

"I understand that Sen. Sanders has a different view than virtually everyone else in our caucus, but I am confident in the end he will vote for it," Coons said on "This Week."

Stephanopoulos asked if Coons had concerns that the IRA would be used in Republican campaigns, given their criticism of Biden's handling of the economy, which has been a key part of voters' disapproval of the president.

"Republicans attack it as a big spending bill, and it appears their midterm strategy is to focus on inflation," Stephanopoulos said.

MORE: Sour views on economy keep Biden approval on issues down: POLL

Coons defended the Democrats' record, highlighting "a whole string of significant accomplishments in recent weeks": not just the IRA but billions in funding for domestic manufacturing of computer chips and new health care support for veterans, both of which were bipartisan measures, and the successful drone strike on an al-Qaeda leader.

In light of that, though, Stephanopoulos followed up to ask Coons about the small but increasingly loud chorus of Democratic voices who say Biden should not run for reelection in 2024, when he would be in his 80s. Coons, who holds Biden's old Senate seat, said he was "encouraging [Biden] to focus on what’s right in front of us."

"I think he’s got a strong record of accomplishment to run on. All the different initiatives I just talked about here at home, but also real leadership on the world stage," said Coons, pointing to efforts in Europe, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the Indo-Pacific.

"So, frankly, I'm hopeful that President Biden will run again," he added. "If he does, I’ll certainly support him."

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