Spending, tax agreement remains elusive

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015

Negotiations continue on an omnibus package and tax extenders package, as the House is set to move a five-day continuing resolution that will kick the deadline into next week.

Aides and lawmakers yesterday signaled that both sides continue to haggle over policy riders and tax breaks.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, signaled that little progress has been made on the 42 riders she flagged as a sticking point earlier in the week.

“I told you we were down to 42,” she told reporters. “I think we could squeeze it to 35, but it’s not like any one of them. It’s those key ones. And they’re in those key areas.”

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters the omnibus would be unveiled Monday at the earliest.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the extenders discussions are at the make-or-break point.

Asked when negotiators would have to give up on the broader package and move the two-year bill, Hatch responded, “We’re there now.”

“Like all really important issues, both sides will do their very best to get their issues as good for their sides as they can, and that’s what’s happening now,” Hatch told reporters. “But sooner or later, we come up against a wall having to act. And I think when that happens, hopefully we can get this done. I can live with a two-year program, but I think it would be stupid for the Democrats not to take the full program” under discussion.

“It’s a classic compromise that really deserves to be done,” he said.

The prospects for a deal to repeal the crude exports ban in exchange for long-term extensions of key renewable tax credits also remain up in the air.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated Democrats’ position that lifting the ban would be a boon for the oil industry.

“That crude oil leaves our country, it receives a higher price on the international market, that’s what they’re trying to do,” she told reporters. “What they also want to do is suppress any commitment to any long-term renewables, whether it’s wind and solar. We cannot let that happen.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who has led House efforts to repeal the export ban, said he was confident that President Obama would sign an end-of-year package with the exports repeal intact if the two sides can strike a deal.

“It’s getting close to Christmas, and everybody has their Santa list,” he told E&E Daily last night. “The Democrats are no exception. You never get everything you ask Santa for; at least, I never did.”

Reporter Manuel Quiñones contributed.