WASHINGTON -- In its final act of the year, the Senate sped to pass a $1.8 trillion bill that funds the government until October and extends sweeping tax breaks, many permanently.
After months of tense negotiating, lawmakers on Friday passed the omnibus spending bill and tax extenders package in a 65-33 vote, sending it to the White House for the president's signature. The House passed the omnibus earlier Friday. Twenty-seven Republicans, 37 Democrats and one independent who caucuses with Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
While the legislation is riddled with measures both parties considered unsavory, lawmakers were able to reach a final deal that included policies each party could point to as victories.
Arguably the biggest win for Republicans came in the attachment of a provision lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. In exchange, Democrats locked down five-year phaseouts of wind and solar production and investment tax credits, a three-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and no "poison pill" riders from Republicans attacking the administration's environmental policies.
Despite neither side loving the bills entirely, Republicans touted the deal as a major win for the GOP-led Congress, and Democrats claimed they won by batting back riders.
"Let’s permanently eliminate an energy policy from the 1970s that not only costs American jobs, but also strengthens American adversaries like Iran and Russia," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said before the vote, referring to the crude oil ban. "This legislation helps our economy, helps our national security, and strikes more blows to a partisan health law that hurts the middle class."
"While Republicans carried the water for special interests, Democrats had an amazingly good year as a minority party," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the vote.
The omnibus, a vehicle both parties like to use to cram through measures, also included a critical provision for 9/11 first responders. Inclusion of the $8 billion permanent renewal of the 9/11 health treatment program required much persuasion from dedicated first responders, comedian Jon Stewart and Democrats. In both chambers, talks about finding pay-fors for the program went down to the wire.
The two parties also agreed to add to the omnibus a bill to tighten the visa waiver program and an intelligence programs authorization act.
The tax package, while praised by a number of Democrats in the Senate, raised red flags among many in the House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fought to get a number of the tax breaks indexed for inflation to no avail. Specifically, she struggled with Republicans over the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.
In all, the tax extenders -- merged with the omnibus in the Senate vote -- will cost $680 billion over 10 years and is not offset with other spending cuts, meaning it will be added to the deficit.
Of course, not everything on Republicans' and Democrats' wish lists made it in. Conservatives wanted language tougher on Syrian refugees trying to come into the U.S., and more to address their concerns surrounding Planned Parenthood and abortion, while Democrats were disappointed by the lack of help for Puerto Rico's debt crisis.
The White House urged Congress to pass the deal, seeking to play down elements of it that hurt the administration's agenda, including the inclusion of a two-year delay of both the "Cadillac tax" and medical device tax -- key pieces of the president's Affordable Care Act -- and the provision lifting the crude oil export ban.
This post has been updated with lawmakers' quotes following the vote.
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