Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Capitol Hill. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Lisa Mascaro
December 17, 2015

By approving a massive package of tax breaks Thursday, House Republicans — who have made deficit-slashing the holy grail of their majority — just piled on nearly $650 billion in red ink.

The 318-109 vote, part of a sweeping budget deal expected to clear Congress by week’s end, was supported by business and anti-poverty advocates as a down payment on a broader tax overhaul and a way to make permanent dozens of specialty tax breaks that have been renewed year to year.

But passage served as a reminder of the dominance in the GOP of so-called supply-siders over deficit hawks. Most Republicans, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), believe tax cuts will more than pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth. Only a handful of Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the measure.

“Where did all the deficit hawks go?” asked Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat from San Francisco, who opposed the bill. “Probably part of the endangered species, I don’t know.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to be combined with a $1.1-trillion “omnibus” spending measure to avert a federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Sept. 30. Final votes are set for Friday, and President Obama is expected to sign the combined package into law.

As a whole the package represents one of the biggest domestic policy initiatives in years, and exposes the trade-offs that are commonly made in Congress to reach consensus.

The tax breaks were needed to make the broader package more palatable. Many conservative Republicans oppose the spending bill because it reverses some of the steep sequester cuts Congress put in place just a few years ago, but they embraced the tax breaks.

“This is a good bill, this is an amazing bill,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), during the floor debate. “Go talk to your small businesses …. This is going to provide amazing certainty.”

But, noting that the measure’s overall price tag soars to $800 billion after including interest payments over the next decade, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, countered: “The certainty of this bill is that we will explode deficits.”

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