What’s in the 2000-page bill Congress dropped in the middle of the night?

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Budget Deal Raises Spending, and the Deficit, Through Tax Breaks.

House Democrats on Wednesday raised objections to the inclusion of language in a year-end spending bill that would repeal a decades old oil export ban, but the legislative package appears to be on its way to passage after Senate Democrats and the White House threw their support behind the deal struck with congressional Republicans. WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators introduced a sweeping year-end spending and tax-break package early Wednesday that busts through previously agreed budget limits with $66 billion in new spending for 2016 and that makes permanent an array of tax benefits at a cost of adding more than a half-trillion dollars to the deficit.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill unveiled early Wednesday morning will keep most of the federal government funded through September — and it’s packed with policy instructions, known on Capitol Hill as “riders,” that will upset or excite Democrats, Republicans and various special interest groups.WASHINGTON – From finance companies and manufacturers to teachers and the working poor, there is a tax break for almost everyone in the massive package unveiled by congressional leaders.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told members in a closed-door session Wednesday morning that she did not yet know how she would vote on the $1.1 trillion appropriations bill and asked members to hold off on announcing their decision until they have fully reviewed the bill. Leaders also released a $650 billion tax package that will extend nearly 50 tax breaks for businesses and individuals and stall portions of the Affordable Care Act. It also reauthorizes and expands federal aid for emergency workers suffering from health ailments related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. We’ve sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. (If you want to review detailed reports on all 12 parts of the spending bill, click here for the Republican summary and here for the Democratic summary.) Please note: This is a fluid report that will be updated to add more detail.

Those included efforts to scuttle an environmental rule expanding federal oversight over domestic waterways, new conflict of interest rules for financial advisers and a labor provision that would have made it more difficult for employees of fast-food restaurants to join unions. The other breaks would be extended for shorter periods. “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve visited with small businesses and farmers who tell me, ‘Give me some certainty in the tax code and I can go create jobs,’” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “I’m excited about this huge win for families, for job creators, for certainty for our economy. Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the agreement a good compromise that includes provisions that benefit both parties without compromising principles.

I really think this is going to help us grow our economy.” The bill would save taxpayers about $680 billion over the next decade, according to congressional estimates. The bill also incorporates a measure that expands the sharing of information between private firms and federal security agencies to prevent cyberattacks. That cumulative amount would add to the national debt. “It’s a significant tax relief measure and of course you know how Republicans like to cut taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We are pleased that the deal will permanently extend tax credits that help working families make ends meet and pay for college, benefiting 24 million families a year,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Friedman.

The spending measure notably does not include tighter restrictions on admitting Syrian and Iraqi refugees that had been approved overwhelmingly in a separate measure in the House; the Obama administration and Senate Democrats said they would block it if added. But as domestic energy production has boomed in recent years, pressure has mounted from the oil industry and its political allies to lift the ban — even as the United States remains a net importer of crude oil. While Republican leaders in Congress characterized the year-end package as representing a hard-fought compromise that would keep the government open and provide large-scale investment and tax breaks, it poses a challenge for Speaker Paul D.

Some Democrats hope to use the next few days to pressure Republicans to commit to future negotiations on priorities such as debt relief for Puerto Rico. But Democrats wielded a lifting of the ban as a major bargaining chip in the spending negotiations, winning extensions of green energy tax incentives and other environmental concessions in order to secure the votes of Democrats who would otherwise be wary of supporting an oil-industry priority. The IRS has been working on new rules since 2013, when agency officials acknowledged that agents had inappropriately singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has said the agency doesn’t plan to finalize new rules for political groups until after next year’s presidential election, The tax package would let people who live in states without income taxes continue deducting local sales taxes when they file their federal returns. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, said Pelosi was in constant talks with Ryan looking for potential solutions. Teachers could continue to deduct up to $250 a year if they spend their own money on classroom supplies and commuters could keep getting tax-free transit benefits from their employers.

Ryan (R-Wis.) announced plans to work with the island territory early next year on managing its debt crisis. “While we could not agree to including precedent-setting changes to bankruptcy law in this omnibus spending bill, I understand that many members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to addressing the challenges facing the territory,” Ryan said in a statement. “That’s why I am instructing our House committees of jurisdiction to work with the Puerto Rican government to come up with a responsible solution by the end of the first quarter of next year.” The Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday also expressed concerns with both the tax and spending bill, saying neither does enough for low-income communities. “We call upon the House and Senate leadership to allow the budget deal to be revised to include protections for vulnerable families and communities,” CBC Chairman G. The legislation would delay a tax for two years on medical device manufacturers and expensive employer-sponsored health plans known as the Cadillac Tax.

It also maintains a previous rider blocking funding for a program, known as “risk corridors,” meant to shield insurers from heavy losses during the transition to Obamacare. Many of the tax breaks are obscure, including ones that benefit race horse owners, film producers and rum makers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, of California, voiced outrage on Wednesday over the tax-break bill, which she said would unfairly benefit big business over the middle-class and working-poor Americans.

Earnest happily listed the many riders championed by Republicans that he had been asked about repeatedly in recent weeks that were not in the final legislation, including provisions to curtail the Dodd-Frank financial industry regulation law and an effort to cut off financing for Planned Parenthood. To get to that point, however, Congress will need to extend a stopgap spending measure that has kept the government functioning since Friday, when lawmakers missed an initial deadline to complete the spending package.

Congress voted in 2010 to create a new federal health program for police officers, firefighters, construction workers and others who worked at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; hundreds are suffering from cancer, respiratory illnesses and other maladies. Previous riders banning federal funding to perform most abortions and blocking the use of local and federal funding for abortions in the District of Columbia, as well as one blocking abortions for federal prisoners, will remain in force. Republicans did win a modest reduction in funding for the United Nations Population Fund, an organization that has been accused of supporting abortions abroad — a charge the organization denies.

Health advocates applauded the increase for N.I.H., which saw funding decline several years ago under budget cuts commonly referred to as the sequester. But the bill does not defund the Title X family planning or teen pregancy prevention programs or include policy riders that would prevent Planned Parenthood from accessing federal health care funds, allow states to exclude Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers from their Medicaid programs, or allow employers to block their employees from recieving insurance coverage for abortion. Democrats had pushed to include a provision allowing Puerto Rico to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy to restructure its $70 billion in outstanding debt, but Republicans have balked at measures that could shortchange the territory’s creditors. He said the increase restored the cuts that were part of the budget controls, and increased N.I.H. funding by an additional 4 percent. “We’re going to have a lot of people who will survive because of this.”

The provision includes an additional refundable portion of the credit for low income workers that allows families that have a tax liability that is less than their credit to receive a cash refund equal to 15 percent of their earnings over $3,000. Individuals over age 70 1/2 would also be allowed to directly transfer up to $100,000 from an Individual Retirement Account to a qualified charity without penalty.

For one, they have tried to strike down or at least delay the Clean Power Plan rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the first federal effort to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. They also floated including language blocking Obama from sending federal funds to the global Green Climate Fund, a centerpiece of the international climate-change agreement reached this past weekend in Paris. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), has said will “support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and ocean acidification” related to climate change. The fund has landed in the crosshairs of some conservatives, notably House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), and the three-year renewal is considerably shorter than the 25-year renewal it last received. Republicans wanted to block a proposed Department of Labor regulation that requires retirement investment advisers not to consider how much commission or what fees could be collected when advising clients.

That rider was not included in the deal, nor was a widely discussed proposal to reduce the number of banks subject to stricter financial regulations as “systemically important” institutions. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) first sponsored the policy rider in 1995 to ban public health researchers from gun violence studies has repeatedly said that he regrets the amendment and did not anticipate its consequences. The latter became a major conservative priority over the summer after a California woman was murdered in San Francisco by a Mexican immigrant who had been repeatedly deported.

The effort to pass cybersecurity legislation pitted businesses against privacy advocates, and dragged on for years as lawmakers argued about what limits would be placed on collecting the personal information of individuals who may have been shown to constitute a threat, which agencies would collect that information, and how widely it would be shared across the government. The legislation gained special urgency in the wake of several data breaches at major companies like Target and in the U.S. government, such as the theft of 22 million people’s information from the Office of Personnel Management’s systems. The problem was a World Trade Organization ruling finalized earlier this year holding that the labels were unfair discrimination against Canada and Mexico, nations that were thus entitled to levy retaliatory tariffs worth upwards of $3 billion. The farm industry blanched at the tariffs, and House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in June to end the labeling mandate, though many Democrats resisted changes, saying they would be bad for consumers.

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