Winners, losers in Congress’ year-end budget and tax endgame

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats, Republican defense hawks and businesses seeking permanent tax breaks are the big winners as lawmakers finalize the sprawling, last-train-leaving-Congress spending and tax deal.

Tea partyers and those determined to rein in the deficit stand as losers.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., welcomed the tax side of the massive deal but is lowering expectations about GOP victories in a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would avert a holiday-season government shutdown and clear leftover business that he inherited from his much-criticized predecessor, John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The measure won’t be released until Tuesday night at the earliest, but some winners and losers have emerged:

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—Democrats. The spending bill provides major relief from tough caps on spending, which Democrats and the Obama White House have agitated for all year. And since their votes are required to pass the bill, Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California played a strong hand in the negotiations, ridding the measure of numerous policy provisions. Such riders ran the gamut, from challenges to the Obama administration’s limits on power plant emissions to efforts to undercut new bank regulations and undermine the health care law. Few have made the final cut.

—GOP defense hawks. Republicans pressed for relief for the Pentagon from automatic budgets cuts and were satisfied with a $33 billion boost for the Defense Department in 2016. That’s more than a 6-percent increase. The Pentagon budget is roughly $523 billion. The boost means generous increases for readiness and equipment maintenance accounts, as well as plenty of money for buying new weapons like fighter planes and ships.

—Big Oil. The oil industry seems likely to score a huge coup with the lifting of the four-decade ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, which is likely to pad industry revenues by several billion dollars a year, depending on oil prices. In exchange, Democrats were pressing for tax breaks for renewable energy sectors like solar and wind production. Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada cautioned Tuesday that this item was not a done deal.

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—New Speaker Ryan (taxes). Ryan appears on track to win permanent renewal of tax breaks for individuals and businesses. They include credits for investment in research and development and purchases of business equipment, along with sales tax write-offs for people in states that don’t have an income tax. Under only-in-Washington logic, renewing dozens of special-interest tax breaks could actually help prospects for reforming the loophole-cluttered tax code. That’s because taking them away in the future would make it easier to cut tax rates.



—Tea partyers. Tea party demands to strip federal money from Planned Parenthood, stick to tight budget caps and make it more difficult for Syrian refugees to enter the U.S. after last month’s Paris attacks have all been ignored because of Democratic opposition and White House veto threats. The final product is shaping up as a massive measure that’s sure to be scorned by the GOP’s tea party base and roster of presidential candidates.

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—Budget deficit. There is no official estimate of the tax-cut package, but its cost may turn out to be in the range of $900 billion over the coming decade, reversing many of the recent gains in lowering the deficit. And many of the spending increases contained within the $1.1 trillion spending bill are financed by budget gimmicks that produce questionable savings, like double-counting savings from Social Security changes and assuming inflated revenues from sales of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

—New Speaker Ryan (spending). Ryan just got a crash course in the process of cobbling together a spending bill that needs to win Democratic votes and placate Senate old-timers like Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Ryan himself has predicted that the measure will amount to a “crap sandwich” and the final bill doesn’t look much different than it would have under Boehner.

—Caesars Entertainment. Reid lost in his attempt to use the spending bill to help Caesars Entertainment, one of his state’s largest employers. The company is battling some of its creditors as it restructures its debt.