WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Friday signed legislation that extends Bush-era tax cuts for two more years and gives the unemployed 13 months more of benefits.
The measure received final approval from the House Thursday after weeks of wrangling. Both Republicans and Democrats objected to parts of the bill.
"We are here with some good news for the American people this holiday season. By a wide bipartisan margin, both houses of Congress have now passed a package of tax relief that will protect the middle class, that will grow our economy, and will create jobs for the American people," Obama said before the signing.
"Most economists, many of whom are in this room, will tell you this plan will grow our economy in the next year, and it's going to help millions of families keep their jobs, if they have one, and keep their unemployment benefits, if they don't, and keep their tax relief and keep their kids in school, as well, all while keeping our economic recovery moving in the right direction, providing immediate -- an immediate economic jolt, and giving more than 150 million Americans help when they need it most, in their paychecks, in their wallets. I believe it was the right thing to do."
Obama praised congressional leaders for working together to produce the bill. He said it shows "when we can put aside the partisanship and the political games, when we can put aside what's good for some of us in favor of what's good for all of us, we can get a lot done.
"If we can keep doing it, if we can keep that spirit, I'm hopeful that we won't just reinvigorate this economy and restore the American dream for all that work for it, I'm also hopeful that we might refresh the American people's faith in the capability of their leaders to govern in challenging times, belief in the capacity of their institutions in this town to deliver in a rapidly changing world, and, most of all, confidence that our best days as a nation are still ahead of us."
Among the immediate effects of the bill is the restoration of unemployment benefits to 600,000 people who had been cut off in recent weeks. Some 2 million more had been set to lose benefits after Jan. 1.
The bill also provides for a 2 percent reduction in Social Security payroll taxes and provides incentives for businesses as well as reduces the estate tax to 35 percent on estates topping $5 million.