And so, as Reid has emphasized, before the deal was even done, the White House issued a veto threat. The fight underscored tensions between the outgoing majority leader and the Obama administration that have marred Reid's final days in office. Reid's deal, the White House argued, helped corporations while neglecting working families. The veto threat ended bipartisan conversation about the deal and forced members back to the drawing board.
What emerged was a significantly smaller, retroactive one-year tax extender bill that the House passed before leaving town last week and the Senate passed in a 76-16 vote Tuesday evening. The one-year extension will give clarity to Americans as they enter tax-filing season early next year. The bill extends all 50 tax credits that expired last year through Dec. 31, allowing individuals and businesses to claim them on their 2014 filings with the Internal Revenue Service. But, proponents of a bigger deal have pointed out, it leaves those tax credits in limbo for 2015.
It wasn't the deal Reid was initially gunning for. And Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, the chamber's top tax writer, has lambasted the bill, warning that an extension through Dec. 31 gives low-income families just two weeks of certainty about their future tax responsibilities. With Republicans taking over the chamber in January, Wyden and other Democrats worry about what will become of those tax breaks in 2015.
"When everybody comes back in January of 2015, you can be sure that the powerful will be well represented," Wyden said in early December, "and the question will be what will happen to the working-class priorities."
But Wyden conceded weeks ago that with the House gone for the rest of the year, there was no other procedural path forward. He, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, would have preferred a two-year deal, but neither objected to moving forward with the one-year deal.
"At this point," Hatch said earlier this month, "[the two-year package] wouldn't go anywhere. The House wouldn't pass it anyways, so I'm not one that does feckless things if I can avoid them."
With the possibility of their holiday break beginning as soon as Tuesday evening, senators were eager to let the legislation go through. Many other Democrats who had hoped for a longer-term deal also conceded that the House-passed package was inevitable. But Reid held the bill in his pocket for several days, using it as a bargaining chip to keep members in town as he has pushed to confirm a number of the president's nominees before recessing for the year.
The Senate confirmed those nominees but dropped a controversial bill before recessing Tuesday.
The legislation to reauthorize the federal terrorism risk insurance program (called TRIA), which had Democratic support, was scuttled after Republican Sen. Tom Coburn refused to lift his hold on the bill. Coburn and other fiscally minded Republicans objected to renewing the program, believing that the free market will step in to insure individuals and business from future terrorist attacks without the federal backstop program. But Democrats also mounted strong objections over the last-minute inclusion of a provision reforming the Dodd-Frank Wall Street law by House Republicans.