Omnibus and Tax Extenders Agreementby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2015-12-16
REID. Mr. President, as the Republican leader mentioned, last
night the Senate and House leaders finalized a bipartisan compromise
that keeps our government open and funded and extends important tax
policies for American families and businesses.
I said last night--define ``last night.'' The last email I got was 2:45 this morning from my chief of staff, who was one of the negotiators. Sometime in the darkness, the bill was finalized. When I say ``the bill,'' it is really two bills--a bipartisan compromise keeps our doors opened and funded and extends important tax policies for American businesses.
This was not an easy process. Members and our staffs worked intensely for weeks to craft this agreement. As I mentioned yesterday and I say again today, I appreciate the cooperation, expertise, and all the good work done by Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Senator McConnell, and their staffs. They were, I am told--and in all my dealings with them, I underscore and underline what my chief of staff Drew Willison, chief negotiator, said of the staff. They were a pleasure to work with. They were professional and did exceptional work on the agreement that we reached.
It is a good compromise. The Presiding Officer, not being a longtime Member of Congress but a longtime legislator, knows that no legislation is perfect, but this is good legislation. This is truly a fine definition of legislation--the art of compromise. When we say ``compromise,'' it doesn't mean anyone is doing away with their principles; what it simply means is that people can't be bullheaded and unreasonable in what they are doing to accomplish their goals.
In spite of Republican majorities in the Senate and the House, we Democrats were able to ensure that this legislation creates and saves middle-class jobs, protects the environment, and invests in renewable energy sources. For example, by extending tax incentives for wind, solar, geothermal, and other technologies, the omnibus spending bill will create and protect over 100,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. A 5-year extension of wind and solar credits will promote growth and help curb carbon emission by roughly 25 percent by the year 2020. And to those who will argue that lifting the oil export ban will counteract these important steps to limit pollution, that is simply not the case. It is not true. Extending the wind and solar tax incentives will eliminate over 10 times more carbon emissions than lifting the oil export ban will create.
The omnibus spending bill is good for jobs, and good for clean energy and the environment. It also helps American families by including a provision that will lower health insurance premiums.
To fully appreciate the compromise, we can't simply tick off the many beneficial policies the agreement includes. We must also consider that many troublesome provisions the Democrats fought to exclude didn't wind up in the legislation. When this matter came from the House, there were more than 200 so-called riders, and they didn't wind up in the bill. Many of these riders represented the worst of legislative priorities: weaken Dodd-Frank banking regulations; undermine the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule; roll back the National Labor Relations Board's joint employer standard; eliminate protections for clean air, water, land, and climate; weaken the consumer protection bureau's ability to protect consumers; curb the President's powers under the Antiquities Act to create national monuments; and destroy the candidate contribution limits. These are only a few of the many special riders that were sent to us from the House, and we did not allow 99 percent of these to be included because they are harmful policies.
I say again, this compromise isn't perfect, but it is good. It is good for the American people. And if it weren't for Democratic efforts, it would have been a lot worse.
I also extend my appreciation to the great staff of the White House-- first of all, the President's Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough. He is a former college football player, he is a strong man emotionally and physically, and he is very forthright, which I appreciate in the positions that he takes with everybody. He helped guide this legislation through.
We have a number of people who work at the White House with whom we worked intensely. All the Cabinet officers--we had a very good relationship with Brian Deese, who is a jack-of-all-trades at the White House and does so much in many different areas. I appreciate very much his involvement in many different ways.
Longtime Senate employee Katie Beirne Fallon has been available anytime we needed her, and this has been very difficult for her because she is a new mom to two little twins. She was always available. We were disappointed when she went to the White House from the Senate, but her knowledge of the Senate has been helpful in our being able to move this bill as far as it has been.
A longtime staffer who operated on the floor here for many, many years was Marty Paone, who was available whenever we needed him. He is a fine man. We still miss him here in the Senate. He does such a great job for the country and the Senate.
We must pass the legislation, as the Republican leader said, as quickly as we can. Christmas is fast approaching. I hope Republicans in the House and the Senate will move quickly to move this legislation to the floor so we can vote on it and give the American people every confidence their government will remain open.
Would the Presiding Officer state what the Senate will be doing the rest of the day.