US lawmakers have approved a compromise spending package that funds the government through September 2016. The budget deal also includes tighter visa requirements, an end to the US oil export ban and reforms to the IMF.
US Congress on Friday cleared the way for government to spend a total of $1.14 trillion (1.05 trillion euros) in the current fiscal year, ending September 2016. The compromise avoided a repeat of the 2013 budget fight between Democrats and Republicans, which idled government operations for two weeks.
Congressional leaders worked overtime this week cajoling rank-and-file members on both sides into backing the 2,009-page legislation. Known as an "omnibus," the fiscal year 2016 spending bill includes priorities of both parties, and leaves out some pet projects that made it difficult for some lawmakers to sign on.
Tax cuts and higher defense spending
After the vote, House of Representative speaker Paul Ryan said US lawmakers "came together to ensure our government is open and working for the American people"
The bill extends tax breaks and credits worth $629 billion aimed at providing greater certainty for businesses and millions of Americans. Among them were provisions helping families still struggling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
In addition, US defense spending will be increased following pressure from the Republican Party which said this was critical given the level of unrest in the Middle East and rising terrorism.
"The legislation strengthens our military and protects Americans from terrorist threats, while limiting the overreach of intrusive government bureaucracies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency," Ryan said.
Oil export ban repealed
The legislation also lifts the 40-year-old ban on US crude oil exports - for years a Republican priority - while extending solar and wind energy tax credits that Democrats say will create renewable energy jobs and reduce carbon emissions.
Representative Nancy Pelosi said Democrats walked away with a victory because the environmental damage of exporting oil would be "offset by 10 times" thanks to measures such as renewable power tax credits, funding of a parks conservation fund paid for with oil revenues and the elimination of measures that would have dismantled President Barack Obama's clean power rules on power plants.
On the other hand, US shale oil and gas producers said that lifting the ban would increase the country's oil security and give Washington's allies in Europe and Asia an alternative source of crude beyond OPEC and Russia.
George Baker, executive director of Producers for American Crude Oil Exports said the move would "level the playing field," with US exporters being given "an opportunity to compete and realize our nation's full potential as a global energy superpower."
Huge investment in US shale gas and oil production has led to rising stockpiles that companies now want to sell on global markets
The US Congress also approved long-stalled reforms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), giving greater voice to emerging-market powers. Adopted in 2010 by the 188-nation lender-of-last-resort, the reforms double IMF's permanent financial resources to some $660 billion.
In addition, the measures will realign the power of members on the IMF executive board, boosting emerging powers like China and India which until now had disproportionately small voting rights. The reforms will begin to adjust that imbalance, even while leaving the United States, Europe and Japan the dominant powers in the crisis lender.
The omnibus retained the decades-long ban on federal funding for research into gun violence, a major point of contention for Democrats. It also failed to provide assistance for debt-crippled Puerto Rico. Moreover, a controversial measure aimed at temporarily halting a program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the United States was scrapped.
uhe/hg (dpa, Reuters, AFP)