An end to the 40-year-old ban on the exporting of U.S. crude oil. Delays in the collection of two unpopular Obamacare taxes. A major increase in research funding for the National Institutes of Health. A permanent extension of benefits to treat first responders poisoned by the toxic air above Ground Zero in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Restrictions on the ability of the IRS and SEC to regulate political activity by tax-exempt groups.
Those were just a few of the key policy changes that congressional negotiators agreed to as part of an enormous tax-and-spending package released in the wee hours of Tuesday night. The spending portion of the deal clocks in at 2,009 pages and contains $1.15 trillion in funding for the federal government through next September. Congressional leaders posted another 233 pages of tax policy, which makes permanent dozens of important tax breaks for individuals and businesses. That measure could cost at least $650 billion over the next decade and possibly as much as $780 billion, according to one preliminary estimate.
And don’t expect most members of Congress to read the thousands of pages of text before they vote on it: In a rush to complete their work and return home for Christmas, the House and Senate plan to pass the bills by Friday. “Let me be the first to say, I don’t think this is the way government should work,” House Speaker Paul Ryan lamented to reporters on Wednesday morning, even as he crowed about some of the victories that Republicans secured in the negotiations.