House Speaker Paul Ryan
Phtoograph by Chip Somodevilla —Getty Images
By Tory Newmyer
December 15, 2015

Congressional leaders are engaged in a high-stakes partisan staring contest over lifting the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports. With government funding swiftly running out, the issue poses the last major hurdle to completing a massive, year-end spending package to keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year.

But a deal may be close at hand.

Republicans are insisting on scotching the oil export ban. And Democrats are countering that they will only agree if Republicans, in exchange, hike tax breaks for renewable energy.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid laid out the stakes in remarks from the Senate floor on Tuesday morning. “Republicans need to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” the Nevada Democrat said. “That’s all they need to do: pair the oil export ban with much-needed policies to reduce our carbon emissions and build more renewable energy.”

Assuming leaders can iron out a compromise, the package would include $1.1 trillion in spending to fund federal operations through September and roughly $750 billion to extend a raft of expiring tax breaks.

Lawmakers will need to pass another short-term funding extension to keep the government open, since a patch they approved last week to extend negotiations over the broader package expires on Wednesday. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said Tuesday morning that the chamber would vote on such a measure imminently, and he restated the Congressional leadership’s intent to avoid a government shutdown in the process.

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