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House Republicans lead passage of $650 billion tax-break package

WASHINGTON — By approving a massive package of tax breaks Tuesday, House Republicans — who have made deficit-slashing the holy grail of their majority — just piled on nearly $650 billion in red ink.

The 318-109 vote, part of a sweeping budget deal expected to clear Congress by week's end, was supported by business and anti-poverty advocates as a down payment on a broader tax overhaul and a way to make permanent the dozens of specialty tax breaks that were once renewed year-to-year.

But passage served as a reminder of the dominance in the GOP of so-called supply-siders over deficit hawks. Supply-siders, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., believe tax cuts will more than pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth. Only a handful of Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the measure.

"This is a good bill, this is an amazing bill," said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, during the floor debate. "Go talk to your small businesses. … This is going to provide amazing certainty."

But noting that the measure's overall price tag soars to $800 billion after including interest payments, Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland countered: "The certainty of this bill is that we will explode deficits."

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to be combined with a massive year-end spending measure to avert a federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Sept. 30. Final votes are today, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign the combined package into law.

Together, the package represents one of the biggest domestic policy initiatives in years, and exposes the trade-offs that are commonly made in Congress to reach consensus.

But budget hawks in both parties criticized what they called a double standard in the GOP's usual policy of requiring any new spending to be paid for. Instead ,the party approved the tax breaks without offsetting the reductions elsewhere in the budget.

House Republicans lead passage of $650 billion tax-break package 12/17/15 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2015 10:05pm]
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