Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Tax, Budget Compromise in Works

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Tax, Budget Compromise in Works

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - White House and congressional negotiators searched for compromise Thursday on huge tax and spending bills with a combined price tag of well over $1 trillion, with leaders hoping to clinch agreements and let Congress adjourn for the year next week. "Not everybody gets what you want when you negotiate in divided government, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told journalists, a nod toward the tough bargaining so far between President Barack Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress. "But I think we will complete this.

On the spending side, lawmakers were seeking a deal on a $1.1 trillion measure financing federal agencies in 2016.

Agreement was close on the numbers, but flashpoints included GOP efforts to weaken Obama attempts to reduce air and water pollution and loosen travel restrictions to Cuba, and to ease laws regulating the financial industry. With talks continuing and current spending expiring on Saturday, Congress planned to pass legislation today averting a government shutdown, keeping agencies open through next Wednesday.

On the separate revenue bill that could cost $700 billion or more over 10 years, bargainers were hoping to strike a deal extending dozens of mostly obscure tax cuts and also delivering major political victories for both Obama and Ryan.

With little more than a year left in office and facing a frequently hostile GOP-led Congress, Obama was hoping an agreement would burnish his legacy by making permanent some expiring tax cuts for millions of families with lower-to middle incomes, younger children and college students. Many congressional Democrats would revel in achieving that, especially with uncertainty about which party will control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in 2017.

Enactment would mean "one of the strongest anti-poverty efforts in a long time, said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the tax- writing Senate Finance Committee.

Republicans wanted to make permanent expiring business tax breaks worth perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars. GOP lawmakers in the Senate and House would consider that alone to be a victory.

Obama and Democrats were trying to make permanent tax credits of up to $1,000 per child that go to many lower- and middle-income families; tax credits up to $2,500 for college students; and earned income tax credits for low-income married couples and families with three or more children.

Unless Congress acts, those tax breaks will become smaller starting in 2018.

Republicans were pushing for steps they said would help prevent fraud in those programs, such as requiring recipients to provide Social Security numbers or other identifying information.

Yet for Ryan, accomplishing that would also make one of his top 2016 priorities more affordable - an election-year bill revamping the tax code. Renewing those business tax breaks now would mean he wouldn't have to include them in next year's sweeping overhaul, freeing up money Republicans could instead use to help push income tax rates lower. …

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