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Shutdown-ending bill seen expanding U.S. debt by $31 billion in decade

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The stopgap funding bill passed by the U.S. Congress to end the government shutdown will add $31.3 billion to the national debt over a decade, congressional tax analysts said on Tuesday.

In another instance of the Republican-controlled Congress running up debt on the Treasury Department credit card, the Joint Committee on Taxation pointed to healthcare tax cuts included in the measure for the additional red ink.

The national debt, which future generations must pay off, exceeds $20 trillion. Republicans approved tax cuts in December that will add about $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years.

After a dramatic standoff with Democrats over immigration policy, Congress approved the stopgap bill to fund the federal government until Feb. 8. President Donald Trump signed it into law late Monday, ending a three-day government shutdown.

The bill delays the implementation of three taxes - a medical device tax, a health insurance tax, and a “Cadillac” tax for high-end insurance plans - that were mandated by former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The debt run-up will come from the loss of the projected revenues from these taxes, which was immediately denounced by a conservative fiscal watchdog in Washington.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement: “While we are relieved policymakers have reopened the government, we are deeply troubled by the decision to use this must-pass legislation as a vehicle to cut taxes and add to the debt.”

“On the heels of a truly unaffordable tax cut, Congress has now chosen to add another $30 billion in debt-financed tax cuts as the price to keep the government’s lights on for a few weeks,” she said.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tom Brown