Congress sends unemployment, payroll tax cut extension to President Obama’s desk

Here and Now

Congress Friday gave its final blessing to a compromise bill that will continue the payroll tax cuts that expire after this year and continue to provide unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.

The bill will also prevent a large reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors from going into effect. All told, it extends compromise legislation passed last fall through the end of the year — preventing the issue from devolving into an election year mess.

The legislation passed in both the House and the Senate with support from most Democrats and a few Republicans. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

“One hundred sixty million Americans. That’s the number of Americans who are helped by this bill,” Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who, led negotiations over the measure with the House, said to The New York Times.

The compromise came together quickly when Republicans agreed to drop demands that the payroll tax cut extension be paid for. That provision will add about $100 billion to the federal deficit. But the other provisions will be paid for, through a combination of new revenues, cuts in spending on preventative healthcare called for under President Obama’s healthcare reform law, as well as a reduction in the length of time people can receive the extended unemployment benefits.

Representative Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., told the Times the bill was  “a very important breakthrough and shows that we can come together and compromise.”

Republicans were eager to avoid the debacle they faced in December when the tax cuts were very nearly allowed to expire.

“We’re dumb, but we’re not stupid,” Sen. John McCain told reporters after he voted, according to the Associated Press. “We did not want to repeat the debacle of last December. It’s not that complicated.”

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