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Back-up plans on tax extenders, federal spending bill

It's always a roller coaster ride when Congress is hashing out legislation. That's particularly true when it's a tax bill that has a firm deadline.

UPDATE, Wednesday, Dec. 16: Hang on, the ride is heading up! Congress reached agreements on tax and spending bills late Dec. 15. Votes expected soon. Details on the deal to come soon in a new, separate post on Extenders 2015 Winners and Losers.

Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure_Bolliger-Mabillard out and back coaster_Dusso Janladde via WikimediaNitro at Six Flags Great Adventure, a Bolliger & Mabillard out and back roller coaster. Photo by Dusso Janladde via Wikimedia

I'm talking, of course, about the tax extenders package. These 50+ tax laws expired at the end of 2014. We've gone more than 11 months now waiting to see is some tax moves will be available for the 2015 tax year.

Complicating the tax effort is the path lawmakers would like to take to enactment. They want to attach the extenders to the omnibus funding bill that must be passed by this Friday, Dec. 11, to keep the federal government running.

UPDATE: Congress passed another short-term continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Wednesday, Dec. 16.

The roller coaster took a steep dive over the weekend in both extenders and federal appropriations hit a rocky patch. Both Republican and Democratic leaders indicated earlier this week that they would seek a short-term funding patch to get Uncle Sam through the weekend while they finalized the necessary fiscal and tax measures.

Today the legislative amusement park ride seems to be clicking upward, with some renewed optimism that the House and Senate could agree on a major tax deal.

"Over the weekend we didn't get much done," admitted Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. But, he added, the negotiations have restarted in earnest. (It's amazing how wanting to get home for the holidays can jump start things.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also expressed optimism this week that Congress would finish work on "either a couple-a-year tax package or a more robust tax package. I lean toward the latter and I hope we can achieve that."

Brady's back-up bill: But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) is not taking any chances. The cost of a major extenders package -- the estimates go as high as $800 billion -- with many provisions being made permanent is a big stumbling block. Plus, the Obama Administration must literally sign off on any piece of eventual legislation.

So Brady has introduced H.R. 34, a bill that would serve as a back-up in case a deal on a bigger extenders deal can't be reached.

The proposal would the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2014 through 2016.

Although Brady said when he took over leadership of the Ways and Means panel in November that he would prefer a permanent solution to the continually expiring extenders, he's being pragmatic now.

Taxpayers, both individual and business, are anxiously awaiting word as to what tax moves they can make in the closing weeks of 2015. Plus, if Congress does not renew the expired provisions by the end of the year, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to once again could delay the start of the upcoming tax-filing season.

Brady said the House will consider his two-year bill "to ensure before we leave, those provisions are extended."

The new House tax-writing chief no doubt will get his wish. The question remains, though, for just how long and exactly when that will happen.

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