Congress Reaches End-of-Year Compromise on Spending, Taxes
Whitehouse Worked to Include Oceans Fund, Other Key Provisions
Washington, DC – Congress today passed a comprehensive legislative package to fund the federal government through September 2016 and extend or make permanent a number of expired or expiring tax incentives. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed support for the package, which includes a number of provisions he authored or advocated for.
“This bipartisan agreement is good news for the economy. It will prevent a catastrophic government shutdown, and add a measure of certainty to the tax code for American families and businesses,” said Whitehouse. “I’m particularly pleased that this legislation establishes, for the first time, a fund dedicated to the protection of our ocean and coastal resources. The agreement also permanently preserves tax credits critical to working families, like the American Opportunity Tax Credit for tuition and college expenses. This deal is far from perfect. I would have preferred, for example, that the tax cuts not add to the deficit. But it includes a number of important measures that will support middle-class jobs, increase access to college, protect our oceans and environment, and boost the renewable energy sector in Rhode Island and across the country. Democrats were able to fend off harmful riders that would have undermined the Clean Water Rule, Clean Power Plan, Endangered Species Act, and other landmark environmental protections.”
The deal establishes the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund, a program authored by Whitehouse, which will provide funding for research, conservation, and restoration of our oceans and coasts. The fund will support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and ocean acidification, which threaten lives and economic prosperity in coastal communities across the country. The program is modelled on the National Endowment for the Oceans, which Senator Whitehouse championed in previous Congresses. The package also includes $15 million in new funding for ocean and coastal research and restoration projects.
Among the tax provisions in the package are five-year extensions of tax incentives for wind, solar, and other clean energy technologies, providing certainty for renewable energy developers. Previous year-by-year extensions undermined the planning and development of clean energy projects.
Other Whitehouse-supported provisions contained in the package include:
- Funding to provide Pell Grants of up to $5,915 for low-income college students in the next school year, up $140 from the current year.
- Boosted investments in health research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The NIH will receive $32.1 billion, an increase of $2 billion, and the CDC will receive $7.2 billion, an increase of nearly $300 million.
- $3.4 billion to help low income families pay their energy bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
- The Cyber Information Sharing Act, legislation that will encourage greater coordination between the government and private sector to identify and respond to cyber threats. The act includes a provision championed by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) in the House of Representatives and by Whitehouse in the Senate to eliminate a loophole that allows foreign cybercriminals who traffic in stolen American financial information to escape prosecution in the United States.
- $150 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative at the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $85 million. The collaborative research initiative focuses on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain, a major area of research at a number of Rhode Island hospitals and universities.
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