DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Two eye-popping numbers here - a trillion dollars in spending and more than $600 billion in tax breaks. That's what's in a deal lawmakers on Capitol Hill announced late last night. This came just in time to avert yet another government shutdown. And NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis is here in the studio to walk us through this. Sue, good morning.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So a trillion dollars - a lot of money. Where's it all going?
DAVIS: OK so, normally, there are 12 individual spending bills that fund the federal government. This is your taxpayer dollars that pay for everything outside of the money that has to be spent on programs like Social Security and Medicare.
DAVIS: So this funds everything from public schools to the FBI. Now normally, Congress tries to pass them one by one. That's way it's supposed to work.
GREENE: But seems to never - never work out that way.
DAVIS: So lawmakers couldn't reach an agreement on how much - the total money that could be spent until the end of October. So that forced Congress to smush all of the 12 individual bills into one behemoth spending bill. Now I think it's important to remember that this is just one year's worth of federal spending. So this only keeps the government running through September of next year. But that budget deal I mentioned includes funding levels for two years of spending. So we shouldn't see this kind of 11th-hour, big, behemoth spending bill again next year.
GREENE: OK, so maybe one year without that kind of late-night jockeying.
GREENE: When a spending package gets this big - and as you said, they smushed so much together - I mean, usually it becomes a real magnet for rider - I mean, these things that lawmakers just attach to bills all the time. Did that happen here?
DAVIS: Yes. Because this bill is must-pass, it has to get done, it becomes a magnet for other pieces of legislation that want to get - they want to get enacted quickly. Two of the most notable laws that have been attached to this package is one affecting the visa waiver program. Now this is the program that lets travelers from 38 countries make short trips to the U.S. without a visa.
GREENE: This has become part of a debate over terrorism, and a lot of people in the country are...
DAVIS: Exactly. After the Paris attacks, lawmakers looked at this program to tighten it up for possible security weaknesses. So what this would do is require anyone who's traveled to countries like Iraq or Syria or places where there's been significant terrorist activity in recent years to go through an added layer of security screening before they can come into the U.S. The other significant rider ends a 40-year ban on exporting U.S. oil. Now this is a big win for Republicans, but Democrats were able to secure tax credits for renewable energy sources like solar and wind power in exchange for that.
GREENE: So both parties feeling like they got something out of this.
DAVIS: A little bit.
GREENE: Let's turn to the more than $600 billion worth of tax breaks. I mean, taxes are often such a controversial issue. What are the tax breaks? Who are they impacting?
DAVIS: OK, so this tax package is not new. Most of it was temporary tax breaks that every year - every two years Congress had to decide whether to renew them or let them expire. And it's been a real pain for lawmakers. So what this deal does is makes many of those breaks permanent and then extends others for a longer period of time. Essentially think of it as putting more certainty into the tax code. Most of the provisions benefit businesses - things like research and development tax credits. But it also makes permanent things that affect personal tax returns, like the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. What's new in here is there are provisions that essentially undercut the Affordable Care Act - the president's health care law. It delays new taxes on medical devices and high-end and healthcare plans.
GREENE: Things that President Obama's probably not happy about.
DAVIS: No, and he doesn't like it, and neither do House Democrats. Most House Democrats say they're going to vote against the tax portion of this deal. But what the Senate's going to do is take the spending bill and the tax bill and mush them into one package. And the White House has signaled that the president won't veto that package over those issues.
GREENE: OK. We're talking to Susan Davis, NPR's congressional reporter, about a deal reached last night that looks like it's going to avert another government shutdown. Sue, thanks a lot.
DAVIS: Thanks, David.
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