After US Senate Passes Historic Inflation Reduction Act, Congress To Take Up The Bill

Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin clinched an unexpected deal on the massive over $485 billion bill that would combat climate change, reduce prescription drug prices and lower the federal deficit

The US Congress moved much closer to the passage of President Joe Biden’s much articulated but modified Build Back Better (BBB) initiative on climate, healthcare and tax spending as bleary-eyed Senators worked through a series of amendments to a wide-ranging bill that was eventually adopted by the Senate with 50 votes plus the tie breaking ballot by Vice President Kamala Harris.

For Democrats, the long hours paid off when the Senate on Sunday, August 7th eventually passed the inflation reduction bill originally proposed by Biden and adopted with several amendments, including those by Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema on the financial provisions, media reports said. The Senate saw a rare weekend session for the Democrats push hard to pass their ambitious bill known before leaving Capitol Hill for their traditional August recess.

According to media reports, Democrats advanced the bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act, through the budget reconciliation process, which means they had to clear a few procedural hurdles to send the bill to the House for expected passage and eventually the President’s desk. “The Democrats in our Senate caucus have stayed unified throughout the night,” Senator Chris Coons told ABC News during a break between votes.

“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.”

Also speaking to ABC News, South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds said party members would keep fighting passage of the bill. “It’s not going to do much to help inflation. We’re still going to have a problem there,” he also said on the Sunday show. “And yet at the same time, they’re going to be collecting about real close to $740 billion in new tax revenue over the next supposedly 5 to 10 years, but most certainly it’s not going to help get us through a tight time in which we’re worried about coming out of a recession.”

What’s the budget reconciliation process?

Senate Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to move the bill, allowing them to avoid the 60-vote threshold to overcome a Republican filibuster. The process allowed the bill to pass with 50 votes, meaning all they needed was a strict-party line vote with their 50-50 majority (Vice President Harris cast the tie-breaking vote). No Republicans supported the final version.

The process had one major caveat — provisions in the bill must be related to the budget in some capacity. Any bill that is on track to reconciliation must first go through the Senate Parliamentarian, who combs through the bill for any violation of what’s been dubbed the Byrd Rule. It was named after Virginia Democratic Senator Harry F. Byrd, considered a fiscal hawk.

On Saturday morning, Democrats got a good start with the good news when Parliamentarian Elizabeth Macdonough deemed that reconciliation could be applied to large parts of the bill regarding climate initiatives and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs for seniors.

“We are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Last week, Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin clinched an unexpected deal on the massive over $485 billion bill that would combat climate change, reduce prescription drug prices and lower the federal deficit.

The New York Times described the Democrats’ victory as being within a shouting distance of getting the climate change bill endorsed which has wide ranging provisions on carbon emissions and tax breaks for using non fossil fuels and electric vehicles instead of gasoline driven cars.

On Saturday evening, the Senate agreed by a party-line vote of 50-50 with Harris breaking the tie and starting what could have been up to 20 hours of debate, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. But leaders of both parties opted to move straight to votes on amendments after only a few hours of debate.

Later in the night, Democrats received more welcome news as Schumer’s office announced that the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 meets reconciliation instructions, allowing the bill to move forward on the Senate floor.

The bill will “lower costs for American families. It’s going to address some of the basic need’s families have been having for generations in terms of daily costs of life that are too expensive that are going to be lowered because of this work”, Harris told reporters after casting the tie-breaking vote.

Once debate ended, a “Vote-a-Rama” on amendments to the bill began. Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, a former presidential candidate, had called the voting process a circus of “Vote-a-Rama” after he was disappointed that Schumer had made the BBB initiative tepid with the amendments of Manchin and Sinema.

What’s a “Vote-a-Rama”?

In a “Vote-a-Rama”, Senators can offer up an unlimited number of amendments to a bill but the process is expedited. There is only one minute allocated for debate, equally divided between both sides. Then, Senators are given 10 minutes to vote. This process repeats for every single amendment. The first amendment was offered by Sanders, shortly after 11.30 p.m. Saturday. His proposal would have sped up Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower pharmaceutical costs and expanded the list of drugs on which they could impose price caps. It failed 99-1.

The Senate last held a “Vote-a-Rama” a year ago when it adopted a budget resolution for fiscal year 2022. In that instance, Senators offered up 43 amendments for a vote, leading to a session that lasted around 14 hours.

This weekend’s “Vote-a-Rama” was even longer, lasting nearly 16 hours before a final vote was held. The majority of amendments were proposed by Republicans, on issues like the IRS, energy production, and immigration. Many failed 50-50 with no Senator crossing party lines.

Sanders proposed the most amendments on the Democratic side of the aisle. None of the amendments overnight passed. Republicans blocked a proposed $35 cap on insulin copays on Sunday morning, arguing the scope of the cap didn’t fall under reconciliation. The amendment only targets the insulin cap on private insurers; Democrats’ plan to lower insulin costs under Medicare remains intact.

Ten Republican Senators needed to vote with Democrats to protect the cap, but only seven voted to keep the cap in place: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Just when the end of amendment votes became imminent on Sunday afternoon, Senate Minority Whip John Thune began negotiations with Sinema to exempt some businesses owned by private equity from the 15 per cent corporate income tax. Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Raphael Warnock of Georgia joined Sinema and all Republicans senators in support, with the amendment passing 57-43.

The exemptions eliminate $35 billion in revenue from the bill — which has been a sticking point for Manchin, who has prioritized deficit savings throughout months of negotiations. To offset the lost revenue, Senator Mark Warner offered an amendment to extend loss limitations that some businesses can use for tax deductions. The amendment passed by a party-line vote before the bill moved for final passage.

What’s the point of it? Most amendments from Republicans, who were furious over the deal which was negotiated without their input.

Republican-proposed amendments mostly failed, with the exception of Thune’s amendment exempting some businesses from the 15 per cent corporate tax rate. But the “Vote-a-Rama” allowed Republicans to make Democrats vote on tough issues that could be used for ads on the campaign trail this fall.

The deal also incited the anger of some on the left, who have criticized the bill’s investment in new fossil fuel development a concession likely due to the importance natural gas and coal are to the economy of Manchin’s home state.

Sanders on the Senate floor last week had urged lawmakers “to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry”, and promised to offer an amendment nixing fossil fuel investments in the bill. ((IANS)

Aarya Walveka From Virginia Is Crowned As Miss India USA

As many as 74 contestants representing 30 States from across the United States participated in three different categories – Miss India USA, Mrs. India USA and Miss Teen India USA held in New Jersey

Aarya Walvekar, 18, from Virginia was crowned Miss India USA 2022 during a glittering pageant held at the Royal Alberts Palace, Edison in New Jersey on Friday, August 5th, 2022. Saumya Sharma, a second year premedical student at the University of Virginia, was declared the first runner-up and Sanjana Chekuri of New Jersey was the second runner-up.

As many as 74 contestants representing 30 States from across the United States participated in three different categories – Miss India USA, Mrs. India USA and Miss Teen India USA. Akshi Jain from Washington State has crowned Mrs. India USA and Tanvi Grover from New York was crowned Miss Teen India USA.

During the talent competition, the contestants performed Bollywood dances and songs on stage, gave motivational speeches, did mono acting, sang popular American songs, performed hip hop, and did paintings. Esha Kode – The First Ever Miss Teen India Worldwide and Navya Paingol – the reigning Miss Teen India USA were emcees for the pageant. Nishi Bahl was the choreographer, and was assisted by Shilpa Jhurani and Anushree Shah. Tabulation was done by Nilesh Choksi CPA. 

Neelam Saran and Dharmatma Saran, chairman and founder of the New York based India Cultural Festival (IFC) that organizes the trail blazing Miss India Worldwide, are pioneers in entertainment, holding Indian pageants and fashion shows in the USA and worldwide. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the pageant, which is the longest-running Indian pageant outside of India. The pageant was presented by Morgan Stanley and was supported by  TV Asia and Royal Albert’s palace. 

The annual pageants started in a basement in New York in 1980 with the first ever Miss India New York and Miss India USA, has evolved and expanded, now incorporating and having membership from over 40 countries, that promote Indian heritage and providing a platform for people of Indian origin to unite and showcase their talents, skills and beauty. Winners of all three categories gets complimentary tickets to Mumbai to take part in worldwide pageants, also organized by the same organization, early next year.

“It has been my childhood dream to see myself on the silver screen and work in films and TV,” said Aarya who is an aspiring actress. The Bollywood fan also shared on Instagram that she got the opportunity to showcase herself in front of leading playback singers from the 80s and 90s. “It was an honor to open the show for Bollywood legends Kumar Saanu, Alka Yagnik, and Udit Narayan. Forever grateful,” she wrote. Her hobbies include exploring new places, cooking and debating. 

Attended by over five hundred participants from across the nation, the beauty pageant began with an opening dance number for all contestants choreographed by Shilpa Jhurani and followed by Ethnic costume and talent performances by the top five and the finale was the question/answer segment.

Dharmatma Saran presented an appreciation plaque to Padmashree Dr. H.R. Shah – Chairman of TV Asia and Albert Jasani of Royal Albert’s Palace for their continued support. Judging panel included Bollywood singer Shibani Kashyap, Swathi Vimal – the reigning Mrs. India Worldwide, Gietanjali Thakoer – National Director of Worldwide Pageants from Suriname, Sachin Mally CEO of Lucid Technologies, Sonika Krishna – Vice President of UST Contineo Health and Diamandi Devereaux – Hollywood actor and model. Sumathi Narayanan, State Director of Connecticut, was awarded “State Director of the Year” award.  Khushi Patel, the reigning Miss India Worldwide, attended the pageant as the Special Guest.

Saran said, he is “very proud of the fact that we have been able to provide a common platform for the international Indian community through pageantry. We are equally proud of the fact that we have been able to imbibe Indian values, traditions and culture among the youth of Indian origin around the world. We have also been successful in promoting Indian performing arts around the world.”

Celebrating 75 Years of U.S.-India Partnership

By, Amy Hariani, Senior Advisor, U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Over the past 75 years, India has emerged as the fastest growing large economy in the world, and the partnership between the United States and India has grown to be predominately characterized by alignment in objectives, values, and vision.

This year, we celebrate 75 years of Indian Independence, and of diplomatic relations between the two largest democracies and market economies in the world. In those 75 years, India has emerged as the fastest growing large economy in the world, and the partnership between the United States and India has grown to be predominately characterized by alignment in objectives, values, and vision.   

While today our relationship is characterized by convergence, in the mid-20th century, the bilateral relationship was strained by the logic of a Cold-War geopolitical landscape and India’s experiments with an import-substitution development pathway. Bilateral trade was minimal, and the contours of the relationship were need-based.  

However, even in those days, there was a vision that the U.S. and India were destined for greater cooperation. With the Indo-Pakistan War presenting a historical low-point to U.S.-India relations in the 1970’s, there was a recognition by both governments that the commercial relationship would need to pull the diplomatic, that the business community—as it often does—needed to lead.   

That’s why in 1975, the U.S. and Indian Governments urged the formation of the U.S.-India Business Council to forge stronger trade and investment ties that could serve as the foundation of a productive partnership. The Council’s formation is the embodiment of the optimism that underpins this relationship. In the 47 years of our operation—and especially in the last three decades—we’ve seen tremendous development of our commercial and strategic partnership, and the increasing interdependence of the latter and former.  

In 1991, India dismantled the License Raj (a baroque system of commercial licenses and permits), navigated its balance of payments crisis, and began lowering import tariffs  

In 2007, Australia, India, Japan and the United States initiated the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue  

In 2008, the U.S. and India launched the Civil Nuclear Agreement and the U.S.-India CEO forum  

In 2016, the U.S. and India signed the foundational defense agreements, committing to cooperation on logistics, secure communication, and geospatial intelligence  

During my tenure at USIBC, I’ve been one of the first to taste sweet India-sourced alphonso mangos on U.S. soil; proudly watched as U.S. pharmaceutical and insurance companies deepened their investments in India as FDI rules were liberalized; and walked with Indian executives and American governors as they visited potential manufacturing sites for lasting Indian investments into the United States. In the past 20 years, India’s FDI flows have expanded 20 times and the U.S. contributes to 18% percent of them.  

As our commercial ties have strengthened, so has our relationship as strategic partners. U.S.-India defense trade has increased from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in the last decade; today India is characterized as a major defense partner and net security provider in the Indo-Pacific.   

During the pandemic, I participated in the unprecedented cooperation between the U.S. and India on global vaccination and pandemic relief. I still remember those early days when a group of global CEOs watched as the second wave of COVID unfolded in India, and I witnessed their determination to help.  Again, business was leading the way. I saw our members mobilize over $46 million to assist India in its COVID-19 response. The USIBC team was proud to facilitate the logistics around the delivery and installation of 1,000 ventilators, procured by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. India donated 1.8 million units of lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment to the United States in our time of need – a true signal that we depend on each other.  

The U.S.-India economic corridor has emerged from the pandemic with a renewed focus to expand that spirit of cooperation across sectors, and the past two years have seen both sides double down on our partnership for the global good.   

In 1949, just two years after Indian Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told U.S. President Truman: 

“I trust that these two republics of the Western World & the Eastern World will find many ways of working together in friendly and fruitful cooperation to our mutual advantage, and for the good of humanity.”

Seventy-five years after Indian Independence, I think you will agree that Prime Minister Nehru’s vision has been realized—the U.S.-India partnership is one of global good. I am the wife of Indian American—fondly called a “Bahu” at home; just like any good family relationship, there have been times of ease and times of strain between our partner nations, but throughout our difficulties we have remained committed to one another, and to a convergent economic agenda that has benefitted our 1.7 billion people.   

This is an opportune time to reflect upon and celebrate what the U.S. and India have achieved in our 75-year relationship, and how we can maximize the next 75 years of our partnership for global good. That’s why we’ve chosen the theme of our 47th India Ideas Summit and Annual General Meeting to be Maximizing the Next 75 Years of U.S.-India Prosperity.    

I hope you will join me and the rest of USIBC in congratulating India on 75 years of Independence, in reflecting on the importance of our maturing trade and commercial ties, and in celebrating the ideas, the innovations, and the intrepid spirit of our peoples at the USIBC Annual Meeting and Ideas Summit September 6-7. We have made tremendous progress together, but if the last 75 years is any indication, we are just getting started.  

(This blog is the first in a series of pieces that highlight the benefits of U.S.-India economic relations, published by U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

FIA Attempts To Create Guinness World Records While Allu Arjun Leading India Day Parade In New York:

“Celebrating India’s 75 years of Independence -Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav with the annual India Parade on the Streets of New York City, the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA-NY/NJ/CT), the oldest and a leading Indian diaspora organization in the United States plans to create two Guinness World Records with the popular Indian actor Allu Arjun leading the largest India Day Parade in the world,” said FIA President, Kenny Desai.

Popular Telugu actor Allu Arjun, who starred in the hit film Pushpa will lead the annual India Day Parade in New York on Sunday, August 21st, 2022, as India marks 75th year of Independence. The Federation of Indian Associations — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — has planned grand events to celebrate India’s 75 years of Independence —  Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Allu Arjun, the Grand Marshal will lead the parade along with NYC Mayor Eric Adams and a host of other celebrities and distinguished participants.

The Federation of Indian Associations which represents New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New England in the U.S., has announced it is eyeing two Guinness World Records relating to the India Day Parade. The two Guinness Records being aimed at include – 1. Most flags flown in an outdoor event; and 2. Largest Damru, 2-headed drum ensemble.

The FIA India Day parade is considered the largest parade outside India to mark the country’s independence and brings together thousands of members of the Indian Diaspora. The annual cultural events run through several streets on Madison Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, featuring tableaux by various Indian-American organizations, marching bands, police contingents and cultural performances by young Indian-American children.

FIA Chairman Ankur Vaidya welcomed the announcement of Arjun as FIA’s 40th Grand Marshal and complimented the mega star for his kindness and patriotism towards the motherland. “There is palpable excitement in the Indian-American community to welcome the popular superstar and FIA will ensure he feels at home in the US,” Vaidya said. Previously, actors Arjun Rampal, Abhishek Bachchan, and Baahubali actors Rana Daggubati and Tamannaah Bhatia, as well as Sunny Deol and Raveena Tandon have attended the parade.

Under his leadership, FIA has organized several events. On celebrating 75 years of Independence of India, Desai said he is committed to “a jamboree of blockbuster mega-events” that will start with the International Women’s Day celebration and carry on into October of this year.

Some of the other events include FIA’s cultural event of children’s Dance Competition on May 7th;  a historical inaugural launch of the festivities from Capitol Hill in DC on May 12th; Press events in India; International Yoga day in NYC; and the flagship event of flag-hoisting at Times Square, followed by the World’s largest India Day Parade on Aug. 21st on Madison Ave in New York City.

FIA commemorated the 75 years of Indian Independence and honored the Asia Heritage Month on May 12, 2022 at Rayburn Building, Capitol Hill Complex Washington D.C. FIA was recognized for the event in Congressional Record Vol.168, No. 81. The event saw unprecedented participation from the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the states from the region of New England.

“It was a historical moment for Indian Americans to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence Day at the US Capitol,” said Kenny Desai, FIA president. FIA is one of the oldest and largest non-profit grass-root umbrella organizations of Indian Americans.

Kenny Desai, FIA President for 2022 is being assisted by a dedicated team of community leaders. The new team consists of Himanshu Bhatia as the executive vice president along with Saurin Parikh and Haresh Shah, the vice presidents; Parveen Bansal as the general secretary; Smita Miki Patel as the joint secretary; Amit Ringasia as the treasurer with Mahesh Dubbal as the joint treasurer.

Desai completed his Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from Baroda, India, before immigrating to the United Statres and completed his Master’s Degree at the Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken, NJ. He has over 30 years of construction and real estate development experience. Desai has successfully led the TAK Group, a conglomerate of enterprises involved in general construction, construction management, design build projects, real estate development, multi-family development, along with healthcare and senior housing development and operations.

Over the past 20 years, TAK has focused its development strategies in the healthcare space. With Kenny’s experience in construction and real estate development, he has led TAK to be a unique player in the healthcare market by combining his development experience with his operating experience to provide exceptional work and quality care. Currently, TAK has expanded into trade finance and established a venture capital fund in the healthcare sector. Kenny has had experience in developing and operating medical centers and senior housing facilities, as well as urgent care facilities, surgery centers, and health & wellness spas.

Kenny Desai has actively been involved in different philanthropic activities. His generous personal involvement and contributions have resulted in the successful completion of the Mahatma Gandhi Center and the Hindu Temple in Wayne, NJ. He is the Vice Chairman, Trustee, and Director of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, a premier cultural and educational institution. He was awarded “The Prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award”. He has served as the President of World Vegan Vision and currently he is serving as a trustee and is a member of the advisory board of Share and Care Foundation. He is currently a trustee at Vraj Temple, where he has previously served as chairman, vice chairman, and president.

Kenny Desai’s vision for the year 2022 is to be working on the following matters: Mega Independence Parade celebration for Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav 50th anniversary for FIA; attempt to achieve Guinness Worlds Records; provide 40,000 plus meals in Diwali-soup kitchen across the USA and India for less fortunate; establish Diwali celebration in the US senate; women’s empowerment; youth participation in entrepreneurship; Dance pe Chance Annual Cultural Dance Competition; establish FIA / Indian community Center and help all the community members for any support requiring to obtain visa and help with job opportunities.

Kenny Desai, a seasoned veteran community leader expressed his gratitude to the community and board for trusting him with leading the organizational efforts.  He assures that he would deliver on the expectation of enhancing the community’s image and through his selfless service and dedication.

Har Ghar Tiranga: Indian Flag On Every Home This Independence Day

As part of the 75th Independence Day this year, the government of India has launched the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign as part of which, Indians have been urged to display or hoist the national flag at their homes between August 13 and 15

As part of the 75th Independence Day this year, the government of India has launched the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign as part of which, citizens have been urged to display or hoist the national flag at their homes between August 13 and 15. In addition, the Ministry of Culture has launched a website under the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign that allows Indians to pin a tricolour at their location, which will be considered virtual hoisting.  

Reports stated,, over 12.5 million Tricolours have been pinned. “Get featured on our website by pinning a flag in Hotspot Location,” the website said. Also, participants can send their selfies with the national flag to participate in the initiative. The selfies will be displayed on the website. Over 3 million Indians have sent their selfies to the ministry.

The ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, part of the Centre’s ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ initiative to celebrate the country’s 75 years of Independence, was launched last month. Launching the campaign, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India had said in a tweet that it will “deepen our connect with the national flag”. The idea behind the initiative is to invoke a sense of ownership in the people and to celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav in the spirit of Jan Bhagidari (community participation). 

“Today, 22nd July has a special relevance in our history. It was on this day in 1947 that our National Flag was adopted. Sharing some interesting nuggets from history including details of the committee associated with our Tricolour and the first Tricolour unfurled by Pandit Nehru,” the PM wrote in a tweet. 

On July 22, 1947, the Constituent Assembly adopted our National Flag. The flag that was finally chosen underwent several changes since it was originally designed by Pingali Venkayya in 1923. Since Independence, our relationship with the flag had been more formal and institutional rather than personal. 

The initiative aims to encourage people to bring our flag into our homes and hoist it to mark the 75th year of India’s Independence. Various events involving people from all walks of life will be organised at various locations connected with the freedom struggle. This will allow the new generation to discover the many threads of our freedom struggle, while older generations and communities reconnect to the events that led to a free India. 

As this is a ground-up initiative, the role of the government has been that of a facilitator. An initiative of such magnitude requires meticulous planning and execution.  “The Central Theme of the program is to inspire every Indian to hoist the National Flag at their home and to invoke the feeling of patriotism in the hearts of the citizen and promote awareness about our National Flag,” the Ministry of Finance said in a notification.

Since the dawn of civilization, flags have had a special place as a symbol of belonging and protection and to rally people together. Stretching back to times immemorial, flags have been a part of the Indian tradition, symbolizing glory and dharma.

Therefore, it is not surprising when this tradition is continued while building India as a modern nation state, drawing from her civilizational ethos. The flag, therefore, is not just a vision for the future, but the values and foundations of our rich and illustrious past.