In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, congressional leaders unveiled details of a massive, year-end tax-and-spending package aimed at averting a federal-government shutdown and keeping the government funded through September.
The bipartisan deal would make permanent a sweeping list of tax breaks while lifting a 40-year ban on the export of US oil, a long-sought victory for Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told his conference that he supports the package.
Notably, however, the agreement does not two GOP-backed provisions that Democrats considered poison pills: a moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees and on funding for Planned Parenthood.
The package is set for votes on Friday. Here are some of the highlights:
It would lift a four-decade-old ban on exporting US oil, a win for Republicans that has been opposed by the White House. It’s also a win for oil companies, who will likely see their revenues boosted by several billions of dollars each year, depending on oil prices.
“Of all the major elements of the budget deal, likely to be finalised by the weekend, the biggest probably is ending the ban on U.S. oil exports — a huge victory for US oil producers,” said Greg Valliere, the chief global strategist at Horizon Investments.
- It would delay for two years two taxes included in the Affordable Care Act — the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans and the tax on medical devices.
- It would extend for five years tax breaks for solar, wind, and other renewable-energy development — a win for Democrats.
- It would reauthorize a health-insurance program for responders to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — a legislative effort that gained a higher profile from a push by former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart.
- It would overhaul the so-called visa-waiver program, barring anyone who has visited Syria and Iraq, among other spots, from entering into the US without a visa.
- It would make permanent key tax breaks for businesses, including measures on research and development.
And what didn’t make it into the deal:
- Any provisions on acceptance of Syrian refugees, for which Republicans have been clamoring since the Paris terror attacks last month.
- A provision halting funding to Planned Parenthood, for which Republicans had been pushing since a series of undercover videos were released this summer.
- A lift of the congressional ban on gun-violence research by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a priority of Democrats.
The package could have some final hurdles to clear before President Barack Obama signs it into law. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) released a statement Wednesday morning suggesting that there were “concerns.”
“A number of concerns have arisen” over the spending bill, she said. “House Democrats are now reviewing the Omnibus bill language.”
“Republicans’ tax extender bill provides hundreds of billions of dollars in special interest tax breaks that are permanent and unpaid for,” Pelosi added. “These massive giveaways to the special interests and big corporations are deeply destructive to our future.”
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