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Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Nothing brings the parties together in an election year like a giant grab-bag of tax breaks worth billions.

The Senate this week took a breather from recent gridlock to overwhelmingly advance a bipartisan bill that would renew more than $80 billion in expired tax credits through the end of next year, likely teeing up a vote on final passage next week. Indeed, the opening vote left only a trio of deficit hawks crying foul, with 96 of their colleagues opting to start debate on the measure.

Dubbed the EXPIRE Act, the legislation contains a multitude of obscure tax breaks, covering everything from filmmakers and racehorses to rum producers in Puerto Rico. It would also renew more widely used credits, including for corporate research and development.


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The Senate's tax extenders -- and indeed the entire process surrounding the extension of expiring tax provisions -- is one of the most egregious examples of Washington using its powers to prop up well connected interests," Heritage Action declares on its website, urging a "no" vote.

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Hatch said in a statement American taxpayers have been forced to fund “administrative ineptitude” repeatedly, and he wants it to stop.

“Hard-working American taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for what has already turned into an almost $500 million dollar boondoggle,” Hatch said.  “This bill rightly restores accountability by ensuring that the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted by these failed exchanges are returned."


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In the House, where Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has likewise called for comprehensive reform of the nation's tax code, leaders have taken a different approach and chosen to permanently extend a handful of the tax breaks. The GOP-controlled chamber last week voted to make the R&D tax credit permanent, a move that would add some $156 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

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The Finance Committee gave the EXPIRE Act its name for a good reason, and that's because it's going to end after two years," Wyden said in a floor speech. "I've heard my colleagues on the other side of the aisle over the last few days, and when it comes to the need for comprehensive tax reform, they have me at 'hello.'"

The fact the tax breaks are not paid for by cutting spending or raising taxes elsewhere doesn't sit well with everyone. Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted to block the bill, which would add an estimated $84 billion to the deficit over the next decade, and they are joined in their opposition by a number of conservative groups.