December 16, 2015 at 6:32 am ET
Late Tuesday night and in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, House leaders unveiled the text to the year’s final two pieces of legislation, a $1.1 trillion government spending bill and an ambitious proposal to make some expired provisions of the U.S. tax code permanent and temporarily extend several dozen others.
Before members vote on the two measures, however, both chambers will need to pass yet another short-term funding extension through Dec. 22, since the most recent stopgap only funds government through the end of Wednesday. That measure is expected to easily pass.
Here is an initial rundown of the highlights within the spending and tax deals.
Omnibus Spending Bill
The spending bill (summary here) uses the additional money provided for by a late-October budget deal to boost federal spending. In the $1.15 trillion deal, $548 billion will go to defense programs, and $518 billion to non-defense initiatives.
The omnibus bill notably includes language to lift the nation’s 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil, a major selling point for GOP members. In return, Democrats got a five-year phase-outs of the solar investment and wind production tax credits. Text based off of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) National Oceans and Coastal Security Act was also inserted.
Also included in the omnibus is language to overhaul the U.S. visa waiver program, renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years, and reauthorize health funds for 9/11 first responders through the year 2090. The bill would restrict the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to implement rules regarding disclosures of political contributions.
Nestled within the 2,000 plus page document is the fiscal year 2016 intelligence authorization act and legislation derived from Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.
The spending legislation would delay implementation of and Affordable Care Act tax on high-cost employer health programs, called the “Cadillac” for two years and another ACA tax on health insurers for one year. A rider included in last year’s December spending bill to requiring that Obamacare’s risk corridors program remain budget neutral is again part of the deal.
The spending package does not include policy riders on a range of priorities that GOP members had hoped to gain traction on, including a delay of the Department of Labor’s rule governing investment advice, an overhaul of the nation’s admittance program for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, efforts to curb Environmental Protection Agency rulemaking and an attempt to tweak the Dodd-Frank financial law’s regulation threshold for banks.
A campaign finance rider pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow more party-candidate coordination also didn’t make the final cut.
The bill does not remove a prohibition on government-funded studies of gun violence, which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had pushed for late last week.
The wide-reaching tax deal would permanently extend more than 20 of the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2014. The rest would temporarily continued, though a handful for longer than the traditional two-year retroactive renewal.
As previously reported, the legislation would make permanent the research and development credit and the Section 179 small business expensing break. It would likewise permanently extend the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and American opportunity tax credit, though none would be indexed to inflation as House Democrats had wanted.
The bill also provides a two-year “moratorium,” through calendar year 2017, of Obamacare’s medical device tax.
The distinction between the two bills is more important in the House, where the plan is to hold separate votes on the proposals Thursday.
However, it’s unclear whether that timing would still hold. Only the shell vehicle of the omnibus bill was posted before 11:59 PM on Tuesday. The final text of the year-end omnibus agreement was not posted until Wednesday morning, meaning that in order for House members to get the three-day review period that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had promised, votes may get bumped to Friday.
Once the two bills pass the House, they will be merged into one package in the Senate. McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon he hopes to hold Senate votes the same day as the House, a possibility only if every senator agrees to expedite final votes ahead of the holiday break. Otherwise, senators may need a few extra days to wind their way through the chamber’s procedural provisos.