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Biden signs Inflation Reduction Act into law

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Inflation Reduction Act is a package that Democrats have been working on for years, covering climate change, drug prices and taxes, among other things. Today President Biden signed it into law. This is the third major legislative package that the Biden administration has gotten over the finish line. He signed the American Rescue Plan into law just a couple months after taking office, followed by a major infrastructure bill last fall, which both of the last two presidents had failed to do. To put this record into context, we are joined now by Mike Grunwald. He's author of "The New New Deal." Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MIKE GRUNWALD: Oh, thanks for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: It's so difficult for anyone to wrap their head around the idea of trillions of dollars of spending. How impactful do you expect these collectively to be on the day-to-day lives of most Americans?

GRUNWALD: Well, we've already seen that the American Rescue Plan really did have a huge impact. At a time when the economy was really quite moribund and COVID was really raging, it was really extraordinary the way it really reduced poverty. And not only didn't we have a depression. It was an incredibly short recession. So that really worked. And, you know, some people would argue it worked too well and it helped create some of the inflation sort of overheating the economy.

The Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act - I think, you know, the jury's still out. Those are 10-year bills. You know, we'll see how the implementation goes. But they certainly have the potential to really transform the American economy. And not a single Republican has supported it. So it turns out for all of our, you know, kind of digging into the details and having these arguments about how best to approach these things, it turned out to be a really partisan question. And the Democrats had the votes, and so they were able to do something. And if they had one fewer vote, they wouldn't have been able to do anything.

SHAPIRO: We're talking about these three big legislative packages, but we should note there have also been lots of smaller accomplishments. Congress passed a law to manufacture computer chips in the U.S., one that expanded veterans benefits. There was a gun regulation package. What do you think the secret is here?

GRUNWALD: Look. I don't cover the day to day of politics the way I used to. But I did know Joe Biden really well, less so when he was in the Senate but especially when he was a vice president. And he talked all the time about how he knows the Senate. He knows Washington. He knows how to get deals done. In the Obama administration, he was kind of the go-to negotiator. Mitch McConnell got tired of talking to everybody else. He wanted to talk to Biden because he thought they could do business together. And I think you'd have to say that at some level, he's been able to do business, even if largely on the Inflation Reduction Act, certainly, he kind of left it to the Senate to iron out the details. But whatever he's doing, he's getting stuff done in a very difficult political environment.

SHAPIRO: I remember some early press conferences soon after he took office when he was asked tough questions about how he'd accomplish his agenda. And he said, if there's one thing I know how to do, it's work with Congress because that's what I spent most of my career doing. And it sounds like you're saying that wasn't just talk.

GRUNWALD: Well, I will say I've had long talks with Vice President Biden where - I'm sure many reporters have - when he was talking about, oh, you know - he told stories about how Mike Mansfield used to teach him back, you know, 40 years ago that you should never question another politician's motives and you should always try to find common ground. And I've got to admit I was sort of eye-rolling a little bit when he was telling some of these stories about, you know, his relationships with racists like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. But the fact is when Joe Manchin suddenly became the pariah of the left for killing this - you know, what was then Build Back Better and everybody was screaming at him and calling him a shill for the coal industry and, you know, he should be kicked out of the Democratic Party and stripped of his committee chairmanships, you didn't really hear President Biden talking about that at all. And he kept very quiet. And he's a believer in the backroom deal. And ultimately, he got that backroom deal. And that's the difference between, you know, $0 for the climate and 370 billion.

SHAPIRO: Journalist Mike Grunwald is author of "The New New Deal," and he hosts the "Climavores" podcast - great to talk to you again. Thanks.

GRUNWALD: Thanks so much, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.