Senate passes extension of payroll tax, unemployment benefits

The United States Senate Saturday morning voted 89 to 10 to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for 60 days.

It now goes to the House of Representatives for approval and then onto President Barack Obama’s desk. The House is expected to approve the bill after Senate Democrats agreed to include a provision that would require the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward within 60 days, unless Obama prohibits it.

The temporary compromise is just the latest example of Congress refusing to deal permanently with the issues that face it, though it does prevent a tax increase on some 160 million Americans, The New York Times reported.

“Today is an important day for our country,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, in the Times. “We are doing today exactly what the founding fathers thought we would do,” and passage of the bills is “an accomplishment important for the American people.”

The bill also included a provision to prevent extensive cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates from going into effect.

Both Republicans and Democrats wanted to get the payroll tax extension passed, but differed greatly over how to pay for it.

“The fundamental issue is how you get pay-fors that everybody can agree to, and it’s extremely difficult,” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told The Washington Post Friday evening.

Ultimately, both sides agreed to increased fees on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the best way to pay for the bill, as well as some other ways that were mutually agreeable. Basically, the Republicans got to avoid the millionaire’s tax Democrats wanted and Democrats kept Republicans from imposing federal pension cuts and other reductions in spending on federal employees.

Obama has said he would not approve the Keystone XL pipeline on a reduced schedule, so many believe that the including of the pipeline requirement in the bill, mandated by Republicans, will in fact kill its prospects.

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