Politico

By Brian Faler
12/02/15 – 05:37 PM EST

  • Budget hawks cry foul as Democratic and GOP wish lists find their way into a developing year-end bargain on tax breaks.

Congress is eyeing a year-end budget-busting tax cut blowout.

Lawmakers’ latest effort to renew a hodgepodge of temporary tax breaks is swelling into a catch-all measure that could cost more than $800 billion over 10 years. The money would go for everything from extending generous write-offs for business investments to renewing tax credits for poor families to repealing or delaying Obamacare’s much-loathed Cadillac tax. All of it would be unpaid for, which is giving budget hawks nightmares.

The bipartisan plan taking shape, a throwback to the George W. Bush era of big tax cuts that ballooned the deficit, has some wondering if it will collapse under its own weight. It could also run afoul of the budget that Republicans adopted in May, which promised to balance the government’s books within a decade. Policy disputes may also trip up the package, with the influential Republican Study Committee issuing several 11th-hour demands.

But the plan has powerful advocates, with both the White House and GOP leaders eager to claim tax cuts that have long been on their wish lists.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said lawmakers are well aware of the risk of the still-unreleased package getting too big — acknowledging that $1 trillion would be too much. But he said they don’t yet know how much the package will ultimately cost.

“It can get too big where it won’t pass at all,” the Utah Republican said. “So I think everybody has to look at it and say ‘Let’s do the art of the doable.’”

Deficit watchdogs are already sounding the alarm.

“By abandoning the discipline of paying for legislation, the costs of this bill have ballooned as it becomes a Christmas tree attracting more and more deficit-financed tax breaks and spending increases,” said Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “A year that began with talk about balancing the budget is about to end with Congress rushing through legislation adding over $800 billion to the debt.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) agreed to a point, saying he has “a very high concern about a bill that’s $700-$800 billion, unpaid for — extraordinarily exacerbating the debt. It’s very controversial.” Still, he defended Democratic priorities in the legislation under discussion, namely an extension of tax credits for low-income families.

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