US Congress OKs short-term payroll tax bill

Updated: 2011-12-24 01:20


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WASHINGTON -- The two chambers of US Congress on Friday passed a short-term payroll tax and jobless benefits bill, which is now on its way to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law.

The bipartisan deal was approved by the Senate and the House respectively by unanimous consent, a time-saving agreement procedure instead of a roll call vote.

This stopgap bill capped a week-long partisan deadlock, and would boost the paycheck of the average American family with an annual income of $50,000 by about $20 a week and prevent almost 2 million long-term unemployed people from losing jobless benefits averaging about $300 per week.

The hard-won compromise took shape on Thursday. At a hastily arranged news conference on Thursday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner said that he had reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to extend the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for two months, offering relief that the contentious fight could finally come to an end before Christmas.

The temporary tax cut and jobless insurance relief wrapped up a year of political bickering and dysfunction, culminating in the failure of the bipartisan debt reduction "super-committee" last month and a week-long deadlock on the issue of extending payroll tax cut and federal jobless benefits.

The bill was welcomed by the White House and Democrats who insisted on passing the short-term bill first before moving to a full-year agreement negotiation.

The bill also represented a policy victory for Republicans, as it was not funded by higher income tax on the super-rich Americans as demanded by Democrats, and it included the language of speeding up decision on the construction of a Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline proposed by Republicans, which Obama had previously said he would veto.

The short-term bill also bought time for negotiators from both parties to discuss early next year how to finance a full-year extension.

Boehner earlier this week named eight GOP negotiators to work with Democrats on tax negotiation through the conference committee, sometimes referred as the compromise committee. Democratic Senate and House leaders on Friday also named their negotiators for the committee.