Congress approves payroll tax cut extension through 2012

A payroll tax cut and jobless benefits measure passed both the House and Senate Friday after lawmakers reached a compromise earlier this week.

The House voted 293-132 and the Senate 60-36 to enact the extension through the end of this year. President Barack Obama said during a speech in Everett, Wash., that he will “sign this bill right away when I get back home.”

Obama is scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., late Friday.

“Just before we got here, Congress did the right thing and voted to make sure that taxes would not go up on middle-class families at the end of this month,” Obama said. “And I want to thank Congress for listening to the voices of the American people. But the payroll tax cut is just a start.”

A two-month extension of the benefits approved in December would have expired at the end of Feburary.

The House, followed shortly by the Senate, voted on the version of H.R. 3630 from a conference committee, formed as a result of a congressional impasse late last year.

House Republicans introduced a measure early this week with only the payroll tax cut, in what House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, deemed a “backup plan” in case a compromise was not reached.

Boehner praised the work of Republican conferees to come to an agreement, but called it “an economic relief bill — not a growth bill.”

“The only reason the provisions at the core of this measure are even necessary is because the president’s economic policies have failed,” Boehner said in a statement. “It is also unfortunately that this agreement is only partially offset because of Democrats’ refusal to consider common-sense, bipartisan spending cuts, many of which were drawn from the president’s own budget.”

The payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and Medicare “doc fix” will be paid for at least in part by the sale of portions of the nation’s wireless spectrum.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voted against the bill, objecting to a portion of the spectrum auction that would deposit $1.75 billion in a “TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund.”

“Payroll tax extension not paid for & larded w/ outrageous $1.75 billion bailout to broadcasters.” McCain posted on his Twitter account. “Glad to vote against it.”

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate the conference bill passed Friday would increase the deficit by $101.1 billion in 2012 and $89.3 billion through 2022. The spectrum sale would offset costs by about $15.2 billion.

The measure passed Friday does not include any additional increase in the guarantee fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The December extension bumped up the fees by at least 10 basis points through Oct. 1, 2021, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency said it would take effect in April.

The mostly bipartisan measure comes during a time of an oft-discussed, divisive rancor in Washington. Opponents of the bill included 91 Republicans and 41 Democrats in the House and 30 and six, respectively, in the Senate.

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