On Friday the U.S. Senate passed a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016 that includes tax, trade, health care, labor, energy, cybersecurity, environmental and immigration policy measures, alongside a $622 billion tax package extending several expiring tax breaks and making tax policy changes.
Senators voted 65-33 to pass the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, and the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, both parts of a package agreed to earlier in the week by negotiators. The omnibus bill provides a total of $1.149 trillion in discretionary funding in fiscal 2016, while the PATH Act includes a broad range of so-called tax extenders, either extending or making permanent several tax incentives.
The omnibus bill had passed the House earlier Friday morning with broad bipartisan support, 316-113, even after lawmakers had picked at aspects of the sweeping bill in earlier floor speeches. The tax extender bill had separately passed Thursday in a 318-109 vote, and the package will now go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
Overall, the omnibus bill provides $1.067 trillion in base level discretionary funding for fiscal 2016 — $548 billion for defense spending and $518 billion for nondefense spending — as well as $73.7 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO funding, meant for war-related expenses, rolling in all 12 annual appropriations bills typically passed each year by Congress.
The tax extenders bill would extend a range of existing tax credits and incentives, both for businesses and individuals, either for two years, five years or in some cases permanently, including a research and development credit, production credits for renewable fuels — with other renewable energy incentives included in the omnibus — and the child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.
Both bills also contain a number of policy “riders,” for instance collectively putting moratoriums on two unpopular Affordable Care Act taxes: the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax and the “Cadillac” tax, an excise on high-cost health insurance plans, as well as a provision providing health care and compensation funding for 9/11 first responders.
Other policy provisions in the omnibus bill include a revised version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, recently passed by the Senate, giving certain legal protections to companies that share information on cyberattacks with the government or among themselves.
And there also clauses to alter or restrict contentious environmental rules, such as the scope of the EPA’s Clean Water Act authority, and make over energy policy, including the removal of restrictions on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and U.S. Export-Import Bank funding overseas coal-fired plants in low-income countries, and the lifting of a decades long ban on U.S. exports of crude oil.
Policy measures in the tax extenders bill include changes to the treatment of real estate investment trusts, such as restricting certain tax-free spinoffs of real property into REITs, among other alterations, and the bill also seeks to “rein in” the IRS in response to recent scandals, such as the targeting of conservative groups that applied for nonprofit status, according to its sponsors.
That would include prohibitions on IRS employees using personal email accounts for official business, the ability to terminate IRS employees found to have taken politically motivated actions in their official capacity and allowing organizations to appeal if their tax-exempt status is revoked or denied.
With the bills passed, lawmakers head off on their winter recess.