Congress on Monday unveiled a 5,593-page spending bill and then voted on it several hours later, with lawmakers claiming urgent action was needed to rescue an ailing economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

But tucked in the bill was over $110 billion in tax breaks that strayed far from the way the bill was marketed to many Americans. These giveaways include big tax cuts for liquor producers, the motorsports entertainment sector and manufacturers of electric motorcycles.

These measures, added onto the broader spending bill, are known as “tax extenders” — tax breaks targeted at specific, sometimes niche industries. And routinely extending these “temporary” measures has become something of a year-end tradition, despite loud complaints from some lawmakers who allege the votes largely benefit special-interest groups who stand to gain financially from the outcome. (President Trump threatened to upend all the tax breaks Tuesday night, however, when he posted a videosuggesting he might not sign the bill into law)….

The federal government collected $3.4 trillion in taxes in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, but it typically allows more than $1.5 trillion in annual tax breaks, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Some of these are locked into the tax code. Others, however, were initially designed to last only a year or two but continue winning extension after extension because of intense lobbying.

President-elect Joe Biden has been critical of the plethora of tax giveaways, but he will find that both Democrats and Republicans have been steadfast in their support of certain tax breaks. And to win passage each year, the tax breaks are bundled together into one package for votes to draw maximum support….


Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, opposed the military spending but voted for other aspects of the bill. He and his liberal colleagues had lobbied for direct payments for most Americans as part of a relief package, and he said he shared colleagues’ concerns about a lack of time to review the final piece of legislation.

“We need a better system to have members review online text as it is being drafted and have input,” Mr. Khanna said. “That said, leadership did keep us informed on almost daily calls about the essential aspects of the bills and the issues at stake.”

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and one of the leaders of the bipartisan group that pushed for a $900 billion stimulus, said leadership intentionally waited until the last minute to unveil final proposals.

“Leadership likes the process the way it is,” he said. “Wait until the deadline, and then there’s no input at all. They say, take this or not. I’m sick and tired of how this game has been played.”

That said, there was plenty for lawmakers to cheer for. They sent out news releases promoting preferred provisions like the ban on most surprise medical bills, the restoration of college financial aid for incarcerated people and the restrictions on the use of powerful planet-warming chemicals that are commonly used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The bill also creates new museums honoring women and Latinos.

“What you see at the end of every Congress is a clearing of the decks,” said Josh Huder, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University. “It’s all the stuff we wanted to pass but couldn’t. Everybody would love for legislation to be passed individually, but that is really a function of a bygone era that is not coming back.”

“There’s a lot of good stuff,” he said, “but something definitely gets snuck in.”…