The omnibus spending bill and tax extenders package contain significant progressive accomplishments to invest in the economy and support working families. The omnibus is not perfect, but it funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy, including education from early childhood through college, medical and science research, transportation infrastructure, and conservation. These investments were made possible by the recent budget deal, which reversed about 90 percent of the cuts that sequestration would have made to nondefense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2016, with parity between defense and nondefense. Importantly, lawmakers largely resisted the temptation to attach highly partisan or otherwise inappropriate and nongermane policy riders—on refugees, Planned Parenthood, the fiduciary rule, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—to this must-pass piece of legislation to keep the government open. But it is disappointing that the omnibus is not completely free of unnecessary and damaging policy riders.
The tax extenders package protects millions of struggling Americans from a tax increase and boosts family incomes by permanently extending critical provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit for low-income working families and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for higher education. The bill also extends support for energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as for struggling homeowners.
However, it is unfortunate that Congress would only support these important policies in a package that also includes some needless and wasteful tax breaks for big corporations, favors for oil companies, delays for some of the tax provisions included in the Affordable Care Act, and restrictions that deny important tax benefits from some taxpaying immigrants. The tax extenders bill also, regrettably, continues the misguided double standard of financing tax cuts with budget deficits while insisting on offsets for any increase in domestic spending. CAP is continuing to review the details of both the omnibus and tax extenders bills, but it appears that this compromise is probably the best deal for working families that progressives can expect from the current Congress.