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What's in the sweeping bill affecting climate change, health care, taxes and more

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We begin this hour with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson and news of a fiery crash at the U.S. Capitol overnight. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So what do we know about this incident?

LIASSON: What we know is that just after 4 a.m., a man drove his car into the vehicle barricade at East Capitol Street and Second Street. When he was getting out of the car, it became engulfed in flames. He fired several shots into the air. When the police officers heard the sound of gunfire, they responded. They were approaching the man when he shot himself. He's dead. No one else was hurt. We don't know about his motive. It doesn't look like he was targeting any specific members of Congress. The officers did not fire their weapons. And an investigation is ongoing. That's what we know.

RASCOE: And this is especially concerning in light of threats against law enforcement and that attack on the FBI office in Cincinnati. So we'll certainly be watching for more details. Shifting to other news, President Biden says he's signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law this week. Give us some more detail on what's in the bill and when people will feel its effects.

LIASSON: What's in the bill is the most money ever to fight climate change, an extension of Obamacare subsidies, measures that will bring down drug prices, a minimum corporate tax. In terms of its effects on inflation, at least, even though it's called the Inflation Reduction Act, the effects will be not large and not very soon. But if you're thinking about buying an electric vehicle, if you're worried about your Obamacare subsidies or how you're going to pay for prescription drugs, you should feel the effects very soon. Now Democrats have a massive selling job to do because they need to convince people that they are getting a benefit and that Democrats in this case, only Democrats, are responsible for this because no Republicans voted yes.

RASCOE: So this comes after Biden - he signed a bipartisan bill designed to spur American semiconductor research and manufacturing. He also signed off on new funding for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. You know, what explains this string of wins after what it seemed like, you know, the administration couldn't get anything together?

LIASSON: What explains it is that these things were extremely popular. On burn pits, for instance, there was broad bipartisan support among the public. So after holding up the bill, Republicans ended up capitulating and letting the bill pass. It's true for other things that Biden has passed - gun safety legislation, infrastructure law, a bill that will make American semiconductor manufacturing more competitive with China. In all those cases, Biden was legislating from the center out.

With the Inflation Reduction Act, formerly known as Build Back Better, it just took him and the Democrats in Congress a very long time to whittle down the price tag so that it was more accurately reflective of where the center was in American politics. And, you know, the Democratic Party has a potential advantage, if they're able to use it, which is that their coalition, which is very messy, is much broader than the Republicans. So theoretically, it should be easier for them to find the center of American politics because they represent it better than the Republicans, who are a minority party.

RASCOE: So Monday, you know, there was big news. The FBI searched former President Trump's property in Florida. But we learned in February that the National Archives had asked the Justice Department to look into his handling of classified material. So where do you think we are in the story?

LIASSON: Well, what we know is that a judge found probable cause that there was evidence of a crime at Mar-a-Lago. And now we know that the FBI is looking into the potential violation of a number of laws, the handling of classified documents, the handling of unclassified documents. And what this means is that Donald Trump is now the subject of a lot of investigations, not just Mar-a-Lago. There's his - an investigation into efforts to overturn the election in Georgia. There's a civil case in New York, maybe tax fraud. And remember, his 2016 campaign was all about lock her up. Remember that? Charging Hillary Clinton, saying she should be put in jail because she mishandled government documents, her emails. He even signed a law, Donald Trump did, making it a felony instead of a misdemeanor to mishandle classified documents. So here he is. He took the Fifth over 400 times in New York when he had to give a deposition in that case. And now his supporters are trying to say that he is the subject, the target of a politically motivated witch hunt. And the problem is that this is a grinding process, and these investigations are ongoing. And he has to fight all of them at once.

RASCOE: As you said, there have been a lot of investigations of Trump. But what do you think - like we are with this investigation where it stands now?

LIASSON: Well, I think the first quick and easy hot take was that it made him into a martyr, helped him politically, increased his chances of getting the nomination in 2024. But I think that over time, as more evidence comes out, I think this plus the January 6 Committee, plus the investigations in New York and Georgia are actually potentially diminishing Trump's powers and making more Republicans become more open to an alternative to him in 2024.

RASCOE: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you very much.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: August 15, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier headline mistakenly said the Inflation Reduction Act had become law. At the time of this headline's publication on Aug. 14, it had not become law. President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on Aug. 16.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.