Monday, December 18, 2017
Politics

Highlights of end-of-session spending, tax bills in Congress

The White House and top lawmakers are struggling to wrap up a year's worth of budget work and let Congress adjourn next week for 2015. At issue are a $1.1 trillion governmentwide spending bill and a sprawling renewal of tax breaks for businesses and individuals that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Here are some of the top issues in play:

• Overall spending: Guided by a bipartisan deal struck in October, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have settled most of their differences over 2016 spending by government agencies. With Republicans dominating bill details, the departments of Veterans Affairs, Justice and Defense will get the healthiest increases, while Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency won't do as well.

Government Shutdown? Probably not this year. With agency money running out Saturday, the Senate approved legislation financing government through next Wednesday to give negotiators time to craft a final deal. House passage was expected Friday.

• POLICY FIGHTS: Battles over an array of issues have become the biggest obstacles to finishing the spending package.

• NOT HAPPENING: Facing an Obama veto threat, Republicans will not include language unraveling the president's 2010 health care overhaul or halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Other disputes include:

• ENVIRONMENT: Republicans want to block new Obama administration emissions standards for power plants, thwart a rewrite of clean water rules, prevent curbs on "fracking" on federal lands and limit new regulations on ozone.

• CUBA: A senior Cuban-American lawmaker wants to block Obama from loosening travel restrictions to Cuba, part of administration efforts to improve ties with the island nation.

• TRUCKING: Industry lobbyists want to allow longer tandem trucks and block rules requiring added rest for drivers.

• FINANCIAL SERVICES: The industry wants to relax tighter regulations imposed by a 2010 law in response to the Great Recession.

• CAMPAIGN SPENDING: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seems likely to win a change in campaign finance law to lift spending limits by party committees of behalf of candidates for federal office.

• SYRIAN REFUGEES: Following last month's Paris attacks, Republicans want to include a House-passed bill making it harder for Syrian refugees to enter the United States. Faced with an Obama veto threat, that may be replaced by a measure, approved with bipartisan support by the House, restricting visa-free entry into the country by many foreigners.

• SICKENED 9/11 EMERGENCY RESPONDERS: House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told colleagues the bill will provide benefits for such workers. An existing program is expiring.

• FOOD: Efforts include repealing a law requiring that meat be labeled with its country of origin, renewing nutrition standards for school lunches and blocking mandatory labels for genetically modified foods. Also possible: easing proposed regulations on e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products.

• GUNS: House Democrats were demanding an end to long-running restrictions against gun violence research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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