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White House Signals Support for Budget Deal, Oil Exports

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Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015 03:06 PM

The White House signaled support for a deal reached by congressional leaders on a package of spending and tax legislation that would avert a U.S. government shutdown and lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

The deal would pair a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 with a separate $622 billion measure to revive a series of expired tax breaks. The spending plan would fund the government through September 2016.

President Barack Obama and many congressional Democrats oppose lifting the ban on oil exports, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the fiscal package was a success for the administration.

“We feel good about the outcome,” Earnest said. Democrats deflected a number of Republican proposals, he said, including prohibiting federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the women’s health provider; curbing the Dodd-Frank financial law and blocking Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.

"In divided government no one gets exactly what they want," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning. By allowing oil exports, the plan is "a big win," he said.

Ryan said the House will vote on the tax measure Thursday and the spending bill Friday. The House passed a stopgap measure Wednesday morning to fund the government through Dec. 22. The Senate aims to vote Friday on the full-year plan, said Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

Conservative Republicans

Passage of the spending bill in the House isn’t guaranteed. Some conservative Republicans said Wednesday they may vote against it. Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer said his party was unhappy that Republicans placed the language to lift the crude oil ban in the government spending bill instead of the tax measure. That wouldn’t sink the deal, he said.

“We are trying to be as positive as possible because we must keep government open,” the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, told reporters. “But we are going to make a knowledgeable vote about it."

The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said on the Senate floor that the deal was imperfect but a "good compromise" that would protect middle-class Americans and boost the use of clean energy.

Another Republican win in the bill is a provision prohibiting the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political contributions. The legislation also would benefit industries including health care, broadcasters and meat processors.

Threatened Shutdowns

Government funding expires at the end of the day Wednesday. Ryan, elected speaker in late October, and fellow Republicans want to show they can govern after years of threatened government shutdowns and a 16-day partial shutdown in October 2013.

Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri said the proposal to lift the crude oil export ban “is huge” and would have a “much bigger” effect than building the Keystone XL pipeline. Asked whether she planned to vote for the fiscal legislation, she said, “You bet I am.”

Industry sectors were among the beneficiaries in the massive bill. The two pieces of legislation would suspend three taxes intended to fund the Affordable Care Act -- a so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health insurance plans would be delayed from 2018 to 2020; a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices would be paused in 2016 and 2017; and a fee on health insurers would be paused for 2016.

Biodiesel Credit

The tax measure would extend a $1 per gallon biodiesel credit and other benefits for renewable energy sources -- provisions sought by Democrats in exchange for lifting the oil export ban. Wind developers would get at least five more years to claim a production tax credit, while the amount of that credit gradually scales down. Commercial and residential solar developers also would be able to claim an investment tax credit for at least five more years, though it would gradually phase down from covering 30 percent of qualifying costs today to 10 percent.

Mandatory “country-of-origin” labeling of meat imported from other countries would be ended under the bill, a change Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, praised. U.S. meatpackers including Tyson Foods Inc. had sought a repeal and the move may help stave off $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs that Canada and Mexico won from the World Trade Organization earlier this month.

Congress also wants the government to rein in a nutrition panel that called for cutting meat and sugar in American diets in a draft of guidelines that upset industry groups and lawmakers earlier this year.

Broadcasters including Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. also would get relief in the spending plan from pending restrictions on their ability to control more than one television station in a city, according to bill text.

Sept. 11 Responders

Other provisions include restoring health benefits for first responders to the Sept. 11 terror attacks who became sick because of their work and health-care payment aid for cash- strapped Puerto Rico, whose governor is in Washington this week.

The tax-extension measure would make a number of tax breaks permanent, including those for companies’ research and development, and allow small business owners to depreciate assets during the first year after purchase rather than over a number of years. Also to be made permanent are an enhanced child tax credit and earned income tax credit, as well as tax breaks for charitable giving and schoolteachers’ expenses.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said the spending bill includes enough aid for Puerto Rico to get the debt-ridden island through February. The measure would increase payments to hospitals on the island and provide bonus Medicare payments to doctors and medical facilities that adopt electronic health-record keeping.

Hatch called the health care provisions "less than desirable" in a written statement, while praising another provision that allows the U.S. Treasury to provide technical assistance to the island by authorizing the department to help the island government with areas like budgeting and cash management.

The health care payment increases would provide as much as $900 million over the next decade, said the island’s non-voting House member, Pedro Pierluisi, who had sought a provision granting Puerto Rico agencies access to Chapter 9 bankruptcy. "I am deeply disappointed but not discouraged," he said in a statement.

Democratic Votes

Pelosi said last week that Republicans would need Democratic votes to help pass the plan. Passage could depend on how many Republicans Ryan can keep from voting against the measure. More than 167 of the 246 House Republicans voted against a budget bill in October.

"I probably am not going to be able to get there," said Republican Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, citing concerns including the lack of language dealing with some of his efforts to restrict abortion. The conservative group Heritage Action called on lawmakers to vote against the spending bill, saying it “falls far short of achieving substantive policy victories on the issues Americans care about.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, though, said it strongly supports the package and urged lawmakers to vote for it.

Oil Producers

U.S. oil producers, including Continental Resources Inc., Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and ConocoPhillips, have been pressing for an end to restrictions on exports of most raw, unprocessed crude.

“We have the best technology, the best oil and over time we will drive out Russian oil, we will drive out Saudi, Iranian,” Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas said in an interview. “It puts the United States in the driver’s seat of energy policy worldwide. It is a huge victory.”

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said lifting the export ban was a “huge mistake” that “is a windfall for big oil at the expense of working Americans and our planet.”

The spending measure would scale back a program that allows visa-free entry to the U.S. for citizens of about three dozen countries, including much of Europe. People who have traveled recently to Iraq, Syria or other countries deemed to have significant terrorist activity would have to go through the normal visa process.

The legislation also would ratify an International Monetary Fund plan approved in 2010 to increase the voting share of emerging economies and double the amount of permanent funding available to the Washington-based fund. Until now, Republican opposition has prevented the IMF from implementing the changes.

--With assistance from Todd Shields, Alan Bjerga, James Rowley, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Catherine Dodge, Angela Greiling Keane and Mike Dorning.

To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net; Kathleen Miller in Washington at kmiller01@bloomberg.net; Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Gordon at cgordon39@bloomberg.net Laurie Asseo, Alex Wayne

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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The White House signaled support for a deal reached by congressional leaders on a package of spending and tax legislation that would avert a U.S. government shutdown and lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
white house, budget deal, oil exports
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2015-06-16
Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015 03:06 PM
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