Payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extended
Senate Democrats largely favored extension, majority of Republicans opposed
The Senate and the House of Representatives have passed a bipartisan
deal extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. The
measure also avoids a Medicare fee cut for doctors for the rest of the
year. The bill cleared the Senate in a 60-36 vote less than an hour. The
House approved it by a 293-132 margin.
"We were not going to allow Democrats to continue to play games and cause a tax increase for hardworking Americans," House Speaker John Boehner said, defending the decision to move forward with an unpaid extension. Boehner argued it was the only way to prevent a tax hike demanded by Democrats to help pay the cost.
President Barack Obama has promised to sign the legislation. Debate on the politically sensitive measure has since ended.
A key part of Obama's economic recovery plan, the $100 billion payroll tax cut has reduced how much 160 million American workers pay into Social Security on their first $110,100 in wages. Instead of paying in 6.2 percent, they've been paying 4.2 percent for the past year and two months. It's essentially a break worth about $83 a month for someone making $50,000 a year.
Without the recent congressional action, all three of the measures would have expired at the end of February.
"Our founding fathers recognized that Washington would not always be united," Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan said, a top Republican involved in crafting the deal. "In their wisdom they knew that even divided government must still govern. And that is what we are doing here today -- governing and providing a solution to the very real problems Americans are facing in their daily lives."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California said that "Today is a good day. This represents a victory for the middle class in our country."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio called the deal "a fair agreement and one that I support."
The agreement came together this week after House Republicans dropped a key demand earlier this week, saying they would accept the extended payroll tax cut without spending cuts elsewhere in the budget to cover the measure's roughly $100 billion cost.
The agreement would increase the federal deficit by $89 billion over 10 years, mostly through decreased tax revenue, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Numerous Republicans on Capitol Hill are vehemently opposed to any measure that increases the deficit. They are also concerned about diverting more revenue away from Social Security, and believe the unemployment insurance extension will discourage people from seeking work.
"We were not going to allow Democrats to continue to play games and cause a tax increase for hardworking Americans," Boehner said, defending the decision to move forward with an unpaid extension. Boehner argued it was the only way to prevent a tax hike demanded by Democrats to help pay the cost.
"We made a decision to bring them to the table so that the games would stop and we would get this worked out." Boehner said.
The other two measures in the package -- the unemployment benefits extension and the so-called "doc fix" -- are estimated to cost a combined $50 billion. Unlike the tax cut, however, they will be paid for.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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