Highlights of end-of-session spending, tax bills in Congress
The White House and top lawmakers are struggling to wrap up a year’s worth of budget work and let Congress adjourn next week for 2015. At issue are a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill and a sprawling renewal of tax breaks for businesses and individuals that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
Here are some of the top issues in play:
—OVERALL SPENDING: Guided by a bipartisan deal struck in October, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have settled most of their differences over 2016 spending by government agencies. With Republicans dominating bill details, the departments of Veterans Affairs, Justice and Defense will get the healthiest increases, while Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency won’t do as well.
—GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN? Probably not this year. With agency money running out Saturday, the Senate approved legislation financing government through next Wednesday to give negotiators time to craft a final deal. House passage was expected Friday.
—POLICY FIGHTS: Battles over an array of issues have become the biggest obstacles to finishing the spending package.
—NOT HAPPENING: Facing an Obama veto threat, Republicans will not include language unraveling the president’s 2010 health care overhaul or halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Other disputes include:
—ENVIRONMENT: Republicans want to block new Obama administration emissions standards for power plants, thwart a rewrite of clean water rules, prevent curbs on “fracking” on federal lands and limit new regulations on ozone.
—CUBA: A senior Cuban-American lawmaker wants to block Obama from loosening travel restrictions to Cuba, part of administration efforts to improve ties with the island nation.
—TRUCKING: Industry lobbyists want to allow longer tandem trucks and block rules requiring added rest for drivers.
—FINANCIAL SERVICES: The industry wants to relax tighter regulations imposed by a 2010 law in response to the Great Recession.
—CAMPAIGN SPENDING: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seems likely to win a change in campaign finance law to lift spending limits by party committees of behalf of candidates for federal office.
—SYRIAN REFUGEES: Following last month’s Paris attacks, Republicans want to include a House-passed bill making it harder for Syrian refugees to enter the U.S. Faced with an Obama veto threat, that may be replaced by a measure, approved with bipartisan support by the House, restricting visa-free entry into the U.S. by many foreigners.
—SICKENED 9/11 EMERGENCY RESPONDERS: House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told colleagues the bill will provide benefits for such workers. An existing program is expiring.
—FOOD: Efforts include repealing a law requiring that meat be labeled with its country of origin, renewing nutrition standards for school lunches and blocking mandatory labels for genetically modified foods. Also possible: easing proposed regulations on e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products.
—GUNS: House Democrats were demanding an end to long-running restrictions against gun violence research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
—ENERGY: Republicans want to end the four-decade-old ban on U.S. oil exports. Democrats want a permanent extension of tax breaks for solar and other alternative energy sources. This issue could play out in the spending measure or in a major tax bill.
—TAX LEGISLATION: Entwined with the spending measure is a separate bill that would renew around 50 expiring tax breaks for individuals and businesses. A bare bones version could cost around $100 billion over the next decade, but talks are underway to add additional tax breaks that could swell its cost, perhaps to $700 billion or more. It would be paid for by government borrowing, meaning federal deficits would grow.
—BUSINESSES: Republicans and some Democrats would like to permanently renew expiring tax breaks for business costs for research and development, and purchasing equipment.
—INDIVIDUALS: Democrats want to make some tax credits permanent for college students and families with children, and earned income tax credits for lower-earning married couples and families with more than two children. Without congressional action, those tax breaks become less generous in 2018. Republicans and some Democrats also want to permanently allow people in states without income taxes to deduct local sales taxes on their federal tax returns.
—HEALTH LAW TAXES: Republicans and some Democrats would like to delay taxes from Obama’s health care overhaul on high-cost health insurance policies, which don’t take effect until 2018, and the current 2.3 percent tax on some medical devices.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to describe GOP efforts to end a ban on U.S. oil exports, not imports.