Dems opposing, not whipping against tax extenders

Dems opposing, not whipping against tax extenders

House Democratic leaders are railing loudly against the sweeping tax package set to hit the floor this week, but their opposition only goes so far: leaders won't officially whip against the measure.

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"I'm urging members to vote ‘no,’ " Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday after a closed-door meeting with House Democrats.

But the Democratic whip said "it's not an official whip" and acknowledged that a long list of popular tax breaks makes it likely that a number of Democrats will ultimately buck leaders to back the measure.

"Obviously, it's difficult for members to vote against good stuff," Hoyer said. "But, of course, it totally takes the discipline out of the system, because it's another thing you don't have to pay for — the goodies. The candy comes and the spinach is never paid for."

Hoyer is anticipating "some [Democratic] votes for it."

"I hope it's a small number," he said.

The remarks come just hours after GOP leaders unveiled two enormous legislative packages they're hoping to enact this week as Congress's last actions of 2015.

The omnibus spending bill is a $1.1 trillion package funding the government through September of 2016.

The tax extenders proposal, a separate package that was negotiated on a parallel track, includes a long list of tax breaks for businesses and individuals.

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTrump announces tariffs on 0B in Chinese goods New GOP tax cuts would add .8 trillion to deficit, says report House panel advances key bill in new round of GOP tax cuts MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said the package provides $560 billion in permanent tax relief — and $650 billion in total tax relief — over 10 years.

"People want to end this annual madness of temporary extensions," Brady said Tuesday night. "Permanent tax provisions create jobs and certainty, and so there's very strong support for going back to permanent provisions. It's key to our overall tax reform in the future."

Democratic leaders disagree, arguing that the package tilts far too heavily in favor of corporations at the expense of families and the federal revenue needed to underwrite federal programs.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that the tax package "is practically an immorality in terms of ... how it damages the future."

Hoyer echoed that message, saying the tax bill "is extraordinarily irresponsible."

"It ought to be rejected," he said. "It undermines tax reform, which every member says they want to see. It undermines the investment in our future and in jobs and in growth in our economy. And lastly, it makes almost sure that we will have to continue some type of disinvestment in our country because of lack of resources."

On the omnibus spending bill, Pelosi said Democrats still have apprehensions and haven't committed their support. She singled out a provision to end the decades-old ban on crude oil exports, and the absence of language helping Puerto Rico manage its debt crisis, as particularly concerning.

"The list goes on and on about concerns we have," Pelosi said. "We're trying to be as positive as possible because we must keep government open. But we're going to make a knowledgeable vote about it."

Still, despite the threats and political posturing, there is a sense that the parallel agreements were pre-baked to ensure passage of both.

And after meeting with rank-and-file Republicans Wednesday morning, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Wis.) said he had no plans to reopen any of the negotiations.

"We have an agreement. Look, in divided government you don't get everything you want," Ryan told reporters. "This is a bipartisan compromise. It's a bicameral compromise, and I do believe we will have bipartisan votes on both of these."

Lawmakers, for instance, are pushing a two-year delay in the "Cadillac tax" applied to high-end health insurance plans — a provision favored by labor unions and many of their Democratic allies on Capitol Hill. That language, along with tax breaks for renewable energy companies also championed by Democrats, was included in the omnibus bill, which is expected to be ushered through the chamber largely on the backs of Democratic votes.

Another ObamaCare provision — a two-year delay in the medical device tax, which is favored by Republicans — was attached to the tax extenders package and is expected to win more favor from the GOP.

Hoyer said he's spoken to Republican leaders about wrangling the bipartisan coalition likely needed to pass the spending bill. But the math, at this early stage, remains unclear.

"We haven't counted yet," Hoyer said, "because we just got it."

All sides agree that the omnibus strategy, which wraps all the appropriations bills into a single catch-all package, is the wrong way to fund the government.

The spending deal, Ryan said, gives Congress a chance to hit the reset button and do appropriations differently beginning next year.

All year, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination MORE (D-Nev.) had filibustered House-passed GOP appropriations bills over objections to sequester funding levels. But in recent days, Ryan said he's had several discussions with Reid about how to get back to a more orderly appropriations process and avoid the need to fund the government through stopgap measures.

"He, too, wants to get us back to regular order. He's an old appropriator himself," Ryan said. "Senator Reid has impressed upon me his desire to get the appropriations process functioning again and allow appropriations bills to come up for consideration."

House lawmakers are expected to vote Thursday on the tax extenders package and Friday on the omnibus spending bill.

Outlining the schedule Wednesday morning, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that lawmakers will be "walking off the floor by noon" on Friday if all goes as planned.