See more of the story

After a series of setbacks over the last year, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith's work on passing major climate legislation is culminating with an estimated $740 billion package that also focuses on health care and taxes.

Smith said in an interview that she has no doubt when she looks back on her time in Washington that she'll see the legislation as "one of the most important things that I had a chance to work on."

The bill is a far cry from the roughly $3.5 trillion piece of legislation pitched last year. The Senate Democrats' deciding swing vote dismissed that package, even as its price tag was cut, leaving the party to scramble for a compromise.

As this fall's midterms grew closer, it seemed unlikely Democrats would be able to use the budget process they envisioned to avoid a Senate filibuster and pass major moves involving climate, taxes and prescription drugs.

That changed in recent weeks, however, and Senate Democrats were able to overcome unanimous GOP opposition to pass the more limited package that both Smith and Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also support.

The House voted 220-207 along party lines Friday and sent the bill to Democratic President Joe Biden's desk.

"The climate and clean energy provisions are the most substantial thing that we have ever done in this country on clean energy and addressing the climate crisis," Smith said.

Republicans are fuming about the legislation, which also lets the government negotiate some drug prices for Medicare recipients.

"Democrats' response to the energy crisis they've exacerbated is a war on American fossil fuel to fund Green New Deal giveaways for their rich friends," GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement earlier this month. "And their response to the runaway inflation they've created is a bill that experts say will not meaningfully cut inflation at all."

The climate parts of the legislation are around $373 billion. Smith's influence on the bill, according to her office, include working on direct pay for nonprofits so that they can benefit from the estimated $260 billion in clean energy tax credits in the legislation, as well as $9.7 billion for helping rural electric coops and more than $1.7 billion toward the Rural Energy for America Program.

"The positive benefits of the clean energy pieces dramatically outweigh the negative impacts of the pro-fossil fuel components of this bill," Smith said.

Gabriel Chan, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs who focuses on energy and climate policy, said "looking at some of the modeling of the impacts of this bill, it's expected to significantly reduce carbon emissions."

"It helps direct federal dollars towards investment in clean energy," Chan said, but later noted "a question mark around whether this will do enough towards addressing some of the inequalities in the energy system."