Tax extender package clears House

Source: Hannah Hess and Manuel QuiƱones, E&E reporters • Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015

A majority of House Republicans joined dozens of Democrats yesterday to pass a two-year package of tax cuts, finishing half of the colossal year-end fiscal deal that next heads to the Senate.

But leaders are hedging their bets on whether the $1.15 trillion omnibus can make it across the finish line. Asked if Democrats would join with Republicans to provide the votes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was blunt.

“No, we’re talking it through,” she told reporters, acknowledging there was no backup plan. Pelosi said Democrats have concerns about air pollution and carbon emissions, especially in the context of the global climate accord reached in Paris.

“The timing of it is incredible,” she said earlier in the conference, referring to the international agreement on global warming.

Though Pelosi plans to back the deal, satisfied that emissions will be offset by credits for renewable energy, some lawmakers have grave concerns about the impact on oil refineries.

Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) said lifting the ban on oil exports would leave the East Coast at a “strategic disadvantage.” He said during floor debate that the deal would take refinery jobs, “shipping them overseas.”

Even though many House conservatives are upset at the backroom dealing and spending, many say House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is already making change for the better.

“At least there’s a give and take,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of the most outspoken members of the Freedom Caucus, which helped oust former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The caucus didn’t get the policy riders and spending cuts it wanted. But, Meadows said, “To have that kind of direct input, and to see some of what makes its way in terms of the conversation, it’s different.”

Ryan reiterated his thoughts during an end-of-the-year press conference this morning. “I feel good about where we are on both the spending and tax bills,” he said.

The Wisconsin Republican continues trying to roll back GOP expectations of getting major policy wins even with President Obama in the White House. Still, he vowed next year will be different. For one, lawmakers will aim to pass all 12 spending bills separately, something not accomplished since the 1990s.

“We need to get the House working again as the founders intended it to work,” Ryan told reporters. “So far, we’ve opened up the process.” For now, “We have made the best of the situation we had,” he said.

The House voted 318-109 to concur in the Senate amendment to H.R. 2029 with House amendment No. 2, a $629 billion bundle of tax-extenders, with the support of 241 Republican and 77 Democratic lawmakers. Three Republican representatives — Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Chris Collins of New York and Walter Jones of North Carolina — voted against the resolution.

Debate on the omnibus will continue this afternoon with a final vote in the House expected as early as 9:15 a.m. tomorrow.