WASHINGTON — Hawaii Congressman Ed Case threw a shaka as he descended the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Friday after voting to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, historic legislation that aims to reduce drug prices, tax wealthy corporations and inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the global fight against climate change.

The bill passed the House entirely along party lines and now heads to President Joe Biden, who will sign it into law.

For Case, the victory is especially sweet and not just because he comes from an island state that faces a unique set of challenges caused by increased temperatures and rising seas.

The bill includes provisions that he’s advocated for since his first foray into Congress nearly two decades ago, including the ability for the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. It also works to reduce the deficit by nearly $300 billion over the next 10 years.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case descends the stairs of the U.S. Capitol after voting for the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping piece of Democratic legislation that takes on climate change, reduces prescription drug prices and increases taxes on wealthy corporations. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2022

“I’m especially proud of that because Congress has not been good on fiscal responsibility,” Case said in an interview after the vote. “We’ve been driving ourselves into increasing deficits and debts for the better part of 22 years now. To have a bill that actually says we’re going to do something about it at this scale to me is revolutionary, although it shouldn’t be.”

The Inflation Reduction Act is considered the single largest investment in green energy and other initiatives aimed at reducing planet-warming carbon emissions in U.S. history. The hope is that the bill will help the United States reach its goal of reducing its emissions by 40% by 2030.

The bill includes $369 billion in tax credits and other economic incentives that seek to change the way the country produces and uses electricity.

There are tax credits and rebates for everything from rooftop solar and battery storage to new and used electric vehicles and energy-efficient home appliances. Low-income and other disadvantaged communities, particularly people of color, will also benefit from $60 billion in environmental justice grants.

The bill allocates $25 million to Native Hawaiian communities for climate resilience and adaptation.

Case said it was his work on the House Natural Resources Committee that secured that funding for Native Hawaiians during earlier budget reconciliation negotiations.

Friday’s vote was a less dramatic affair than what occurred in the Senate on Sunday when Vice President Kamala Harris was called in to break a 50-50, party-line tie to send the bill to the House. Democrats cheered and pumped their fists in victory that day while U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who considers climate change his top priority, broke down in tears.

The celebrations in the House were more muted in part because so many lawmakers cast their votes via proxy, including Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele, who is running for governor in the primary on Saturday.

In a tweet, Kahele called the vote “a historic victory for Hawaiʻi families and the future of our planet,” adding that it “will ensure our keiki inherit the Hawaiʻi they deserve.”

Still, dozens of people stood outside the Capitol waving signs and cheering as lawmakers exited the building to head home to their districts for the August recess.

Case himself is up for reelection in Saturday’s primary, but he said it was more important to be in Washington given the gravity of the moment. While Case faces a spirited challenge from progressive challenger, Sergio Alcubilla, he is expected to win handily.

“It’s a historic vote and I needed to be here for it,” Case said Friday. “It’s a vote that counted and I feel really good about it.”

Case’s vote in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act was never in question.

The bill is a pared down version of the $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill that the House passed in November.

A crowd gathered outside of the U.S. Capitol to celebrate the passage of historic climate legislation. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2022

Case voted in favor of that measure, which also included hundreds of billions of dollars for universal preschool, affordable housing and an extension of the child tax credit that provided monthly payments to millions of families with children, after expressing misgivings about an earlier version that had a $3.5 trillion price tag.

Any concerns about where Case stood on the Inflation Reduction Act, however, were answered Monday when the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, which he co-chairs, issued a statement saying it would “move swiftly to send this bill to the President’s desk.”

“I feel like the pragmatic and realistic approach that I and others were applying to the various proposals from the get go proved correct,” Case said.

He added that he expects to be back in the islands on Saturday in time to sign wave before the polls close.

Civil Beat’s coverage of climate change is supported by the Environmental Funders Group of the Hawaii Community Foundation, Marisla Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

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