- Republican Sessions says plan to be presented to lawmakers
- Ryan spokeswoman disputes Sessions, says talks are continuing
House and Senate lawmakers were on the brink of an agreement on plans to fund the U.S. government and make some expired tax provisions permanent as a deadline to avoid a federal shutdown drew near.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday evening that lawmakers were “very close” to a deal, “99 percent,” though he wouldn’t say what the 1 percent disagreement was. House Republicans plan to meet at 9 p.m. Washington time. Earlier, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said a tentative agreement had been reached.
Current government funding is set to expire at the end of the day Wednesday, and lawmakers will need to pass a stopgap bill to avoid a shutdown while they debate the full-year bill. Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole said remaining issues involve the environment and financial services. The financial services provisions are where assistance for financially troubled Puerto Rico would be provided.
Sessions told reporters that leaders had reached a tentative deal and that the plan would be presented to rank-and-file House members Tuesday night. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong disputed Sessions’ statement in an e-mail that said, “Negotiations continue and there is no deal yet.”
Sessions wouldn’t discuss specifics, including whether lifting a 40-year-ban on exporting crude oil would be part of the deal. But he said, “as a Texan,” then smiled widely. He spoke to reporters after leaving a closed-door meeting of House Republican leaders, including Ryan. Sessions said he expected the spending bill and tax package to be released after Tuesday night’s House Republican meeting.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said earlier in the day that a dispute over the crude oil export ban was the last major obstacle to an agreement. He said Republicans needed to decide whether to accept environmental measures sought by Democrats in exchange for lifting the ban.
“There will be a great meeting of our family. And people will see things. And when that breaks we will post the text,” Sessions said.
Congressional negotiators have been working on the spending bill and an accompanying package of as much as $750 billion in tax breaks for businesses and low-income workers. A resolution was delayed by disagreements over a variety of policy changes sought by Republicans, including lifting the oil export ban.
“I think we’ve been pretty clear we’re not going to have a shutdown,” Ryan of Wisconsin said earlier Tuesday during a Politico event.
The deal being discussed would lift longstanding trade restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports in exchange for extending renewable energy tax credits and allowing the U.S. to pay into an international fund to help developing countries cope with climate change, three energy industry lobbyists familiar with the negotiations said earlier Tuesday.
U.S. oil producers, including Continental Resources Inc., Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and ConocoPhillips, have been pressing for an end to the trade restrictions that block exports of most raw, unprocessed crude but don’t restrict foreign sales of gasoline, diesel and other refined petroleum products.
Lawmakers were near agreement on a plan that would extend a production tax credit used by wind power developers for five years, the lobbyists said. A similar five-year extension would be allowed for the solar investment tax credit, which covers 30 percent of the qualified costs associated with those projects, they said. The 50-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps pay for land acquisitions and expired in September, also would get a two-year extension.
President Barack Obama opposes legislation lifting the crude oil export ban but doesn’t rule out letting such a provision survive in a final spending bill, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. The White House has “acknowledged an omnibus bill will be a compromise,” Earnest said.
Cole said the final plan won’t include a Republican proposal to block the Labor Department from completing a proposed fiduciary standard for brokers who give advice on retirement money. The standard would require such brokers to put their clients’ best interests first. Large banks such as Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., as well as mutual fund companies, independent brokers and insurers, have sought to kill the fiduciary rule.
Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer raised objections to the tax-extension measure even though he said it would make permanent an expansion of the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit -- both priorities for Democrats. It also would continue tax breaks for business research and investment as well as charitable contributions, he said.
Hoyer of Maryland said he opposed the plan because its cost wouldn’t be paid for, citing a “misguided double standard that investments in the growth of jobs and opportunities must be offset, but tax cuts are always free.”