1 Big Winner and 1 Big Loser From Congress’s Year-End Spending Deal
Christmas came early on Capitol Hill as lawmakers racing to finalize a nearly $1.4 trillion year-end deal to fund the government through September 30 loaded up their must-pass 2,300-plus-page package of spending bills with enough policy goodies to make sure almost everybody gets something to show off over the holidays.
The House on Tuesday passed two packages comprising the 12 required annual spending bills, sending them to the Senate, which is expected to approve them before leaving for the holidays.
“The number of issues handled in this bill is stunning. It contains major changes in health care policy, extends flood insurance, reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank for seven years, extends the terrorism insurance program and reauthorizes money to rebuild the Kennedy Center, and so much more,” Politico’s Playbook noted. “If you are a company or an entity with a legislative priority, and you couldn't get it in this year-end package, call your lobbyist for a chat. Or better yet, look for a new one.”
Republicans get to tout a $22 billion increase in defense spending, among other things, while Democrats can point to $25 million in federal funding for gun violence research, $425 million in election security grants and a $208 million increase for the Environmental Protection Agency.
And there’s much more. As part of the whirlwind dealmaking, congressional leaders and White House officials reached a late-night agreement Monday to extend some tax breaks through 2020, with longer extensions for provisions covering biodiesel production and short-line railroad maintenance.
“The deal would renew numerous tax provisions that either expired at the beginning of 2018 or this year, or were set to expire as of Jan. 1, 2020,” Roll Call reports. “They include deductions for mortgage insurance premiums, college costs and large medical expenses; excise tax breaks for craft brewers and distillers; credits for employer-paid family and medical leave, investors in low-income communities, and faster depreciation for racehorses and motor sports complexes, among others." Democrats failed to get some of what they had pushed for, though, including an expansion of tax breaks for renewable energy and electric vehicles and tax credits for low-income families.
In all, the package passed by the House Tuesday would increase spending by $49 billion over fiscal 2019 and raise deficits by $391 billion over 10 years, while the agreement to extend some lapsed or expiring tax breaks and other provisions will cost about $54 billion more.
While there were plenty of winners from the year-end scramble, here’s a look at a one that stood out — and one obvious loser.
1 Big Winner: The Health Care Industry
The repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance, medical device and “Cadillac” health plan taxes was a massive win for the health care industry. The industry also got at least a temporary reprieve on two other key issues as Congress failed to pass major legislation addressing surprise medical bills and prescription drug prices. (On the latter, the year-end deal includes legislation to help generic drugs get to market faster, but broader, more aggressive plans to lower drug prices have thus far failed to win consensus among lawmakers.)
These two tweets, from Bloomberg News reporter John Tozzi and billionaire philanthropist and health-care activist John Arnold sum up the scoreboard.