Congressional negotiators have reached an agreement on a $1.15 trillion federal spending bill that will carry through until Sept. 30, 2016. Most of the contentious policy "riders" were dropped in the final package.
The House is expected to vote Friday on the 2,009-page measure. Senate action will follow. Because the short-term spending extension expires tonight, Congress is expected to rush through another extension until Dec. 22 to allow time for the in the House and Senate on the omnibus package, which consists of 12 appropriations bills.
The deal also involves a 233-page bill that extends various tax provisions, including a five-year extension of tax credits for the wind and solar industries and a two-year delay of the so-called "Cadillac" tax on health insurance plans. The measure locks the research and development credit and Section 179 small business expensing deduction into law.
Reaching a spending agreement was a heavy lift for new House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called the job a "crap sandwich."
To reach a deal, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were forced to drop provisions Democrats opposed to defund Planned Parenthood, block funding for the 10,000 Syrian refugees that President Obama has agreed to accept, blunt an Obama administration clean water rule and peel back portions of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation.
Ryan and McConnell hope to attract as many Republican votes as possible through tax extenders, an end to a 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports and a reformed visa waiver program that no longer will apply to anyone who has travelled to Iraq or Syria. The omnibus package also stops what GOP critics call an Obamacare "bailout" of health insurers.
Democrats mostly played defense on the spending bill, but achieved policy goals on the tax measure, including expansion of the child, earned income college tuition tax credits. The measure also indefinitely extends state and local sales tax deductions and a deduction for teachers' out-of-pocket expenses. New York Senator Charles Schumer successfully inserted a provision to provide a tax benefit to mass transit riders that parallels an existing exclusion for employer-paid parking.
Provisions of particular interest to CFM clients include the following:
• CDBG: $3 billion (equal to FY15 enacted level)
• HOME: $950 million ($50 million increase over FY15 enacted levels)
• Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants: $347 million (slight increase over FY15 enacted levels)
• Economic Development Administration, Public Works Programs: $100 million (increase over FY15 enacted levels)
• FEMA Assistance to Firefighter Grants: $690 million — $345 million for AFG and $345 for SAFER (increase over FY15 enacted levels)
• TIGER: $500 million (equal to FY15 enacted level), although the bill does not provide funds for planning grants.
While the omnibus spending and tax extender bills are expected to pass, most likely with bipartisan support, there is sure to be sniping about items buried in the bowels of the mammoth legislation, especially given the little amount of time Members of Congress will have before votes begin.