The Senate voted 65-33 to approve sweeping legislation that
averted a government shutdown, locked in billions of dollars of tax
breaks and scrapped a 40-year-old ban on the export of U.S. oil.
Negotiations on Capitol Hill were mostly free of the acrimony that
has blighted similar talks for the past five years and forced
lawmakers to produce a succession of stopgap measures just to keep
the government running.
"I think the system worked" this time, President Barack Obama said
during a White House news conference.
He later signed the bill into law in a low-key Oval Office ceremony.
It was a win for new House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who
managed to keep fiscal hawks in his Republican caucus under control
during weeks of talks and avoid the kind of infighting that plagued
his predecessor, John Boehner.
Obama gave Ryan's efforts a nod during a White House news
"Kudos to him as well," Obama said, along with "all the leaders and
appropriators who were involved in this process."
The Democratic president acknowledged he still had basic policy
differences with Ryan but described "a good working relationship"
between the two.
At more than 2,000 pages long, the spending portion of the bill
funds the government through next September, preventing a shutdown
and effectively taking difficult budget disputes off the table as
the 2016 presidential campaign enters the primary season.
Most of the U.S. senators running for the White House voted against
the bill, including Republicans Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Democrat
Bernie Sanders. Republican Lindsey Graham voted in favor. Republican
Senator Marco Rubio, who had been criticized by campaign rivals for
missing votes, was absent from Congress on Friday.
Dozens of previously temporary tax breaks will now be permanent
under the tax segment of the bill, which will cost $680 billion over
10 years and was promoted by corporate lobbyists and low-tax
Middle-class Americans also gain. Students, low-income parents and
teachers will receive tax aid, attracting support for the
legislation from the White House and congressional Democrats.
Lawmakers also lifted a four-decade-old ban on U.S. crude oil
exports, a historic move that nevertheless will have little
immediate effect on oil markets.
"I'm not wild about everything in it," Obama said of the
legislation. "I'm sure that's true for everybody. But it is a budget
that, as I insisted, invests in our military and our middle class
without ideological provisions that would have weakened Wall Street
reform or rules on big polluters."
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Some Republicans worry that the $1.15 trillion spending provisions
add to the federal budget deficit and erode the fiscal discipline
that House Republicans have championed, particularly since lawmakers
aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement did well in 2010
But Tea Party momentum has slowed as the federal deficit drops from
its peak of $1.41 trillion in 2009 due to the economic recovery. The
deficit was $439 billion for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30.
The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the
legislation passed on Friday will increase the 2016 fiscal year
budget deficit by $157 billion and by $95 billion in 2017.
Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a leading House Republican fiscal hawk,
said the bill was ďan early Christmas present for Donald Trump," the
billionaire businessman seeking the Republican presidential
nomination, because it will fuel the anti-establishment mood in the
Conservatives complained that Republican leaders agreed on the
bill's spending and tax provisions behind closed doors and then
rushed the bill through the Senate on Friday morning.
"A rotten process yields a rotten result, and this 2,000-page,
trillion-dollar bill is rotten to its core," Republican Senator Tom
Cotton of Arkansas said. "Corporate lobbyists had a field day, but
working Americans lost out," Cotton said.
Some Democrats criticized the tax cuts, saying they give more aid to
large corporations and wealthy business owners than to working
The largest component of the tax package is the business research
and development tax credit, which will cost $113 billion over a
decade in lost government revenues.
The bill ratifies International Monetary Fund reforms aimed at
boosting the representation of emerging economies within the
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and David Lawder; Writing by
Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott and Will Dunham)
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