House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a sweeping deal to keep the government open and extend a raft of popular tax breaks Tuesday evening, telling the GOP Conference that the compromise could be voted on as early as Thursday.
Ryan called for a strong vote from his caucus, even though he conceded the bill would lack many of the legislative riders members had been seeking. Many of those riders were sweeteners lawmakers sought in exchange for their support of the $1.1 trillion spending bill and accompanying tax package, the latter of which grew greatly in size and scope in recent weeks.
“He feels we need to start fresh. We need to increase our hand; we’ll look better and we’ll have better negotiating positioning if we have a strong Republican vote on this stuff this year,” Republican Rep. Reid Ribble said, exiting the meeting. “If we show weakness and we show division, it’ll be much harder to get Republican policies in stuff going forward.”
But Ribble said he is disappointed by some of the concessions Republicans had to make. Language forcing administration officials to sign off on every Syrian refugee resettled in the country was scrapped in favor of new, tighter border laws on those entering the country using the visa-waiver program.
“In divided government you’re going to have some concessions; that’s what compromise is about,” he said. “And to get the good things that we thought we needed, that meant the Democrats were going to get some of the stuff they wanted.”
The absence of the Syrian refugee language is likely to drive away a good number of GOP votes. Members were looking to tighten immigration laws after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Republican Rep. Lou Barletta said that while he is pleased the visa-waiver language is included, he is considering voting against the bill. “That’s a major sticking point,” Barletta said. “We were able to get the visa-waiver [language], which I was happy for. … But the Syrian refugee [bill] is an issue that I feel very strongly about.”
The second bill, a tax package that could cost up to $800 billion, provides a huge win for the oil industry by ending heavy restrictions on crude-oil exports that date back to the 1970s.
Lifting the de facto export ban has become a major priority for Republicans, and some conservative Democrats, including Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, whose home state of North Dakota has seen a surge in oil production in recent years.
Oil companies are eager to take advantage of higher prices often available on global markets, but many environmentalists oppose removing the ban, arguing that it will worsen carbon emissions by providing a new catalyst for more oil production.
In exchange, Democrats got five-year extensions for the wind-production tax credit and the solar-investment tax credit. The legislation will also shore up health benefits to 9/11 first responders, extending the victims' compensation fund for five years with $4.6 billion, and a health fund through 2090, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Still, Democratic leaders said they are waiting until the deal is inked to recommend a vote to their caucus. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters earlier Tuesday evening that she was waiting to see exactly how the deal is structured.
“Until you see in writing what all of this is, you really can’t make any comment or any commitment about it. So, we’ll see,” Pelosi said.
Congress will likely pass another short-term continuing resolution in order to avoid a government shutdown and give members time to study the legislation. The Senate could take longer to pass the bill if any senator objects to consideration, but GOP leaders in the chamber were hoping the coming Christmas break would incentivize members to cooperate.
Alex Rogers and Ben Geman contributed to this article
Daniel Newhauser is a staff correspondent for National Journal, where he primarily covers the House of Representatives. He was formerly a House leadership reporter for Roll Call, where he started as an intern in 2010 and quickly earned a slot as a beat reporter.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Newhauser traveled further West to study journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and write for newspapers including the East Valley Tribune and the Green Valley News & Sun.