Payroll tax relief deal reached

Feb. 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. congressional negotiators have reached a deal to extend the payroll tax cut, jobless benefits and Medicare reimbursement rates, congressional aides said.

The agreement includes $50 billion in spending cuts to help defray the impact of the spending on the federal deficit, The Washington Post reported. Citing lawmakers and congressional aides, the newspaper said details of the agreement were still being worked out late Tuesday, but it appeared an agreement would be announced Wednesday and could be enacted by Friday.

"If everything holds as is, we'll be signing [the compromise] tomorrow," Rep. Renee Elmers, R-N.C., said after attending a meeting of House Republican leaders. "It is a compromise. We knew we were going to have to compromise."

Earlier in the day, The Hill, citing a source it did not identify, reported House and Senate negotiators were showing "real signs of progress" on a package that would extend the payroll tax cut without spending cut offsets, a compromise House GOP leaders signaled Monday they could support.

Extending unemployment insurance and the Medicare "doc fix," which cost between $50 billion and $60 billion combined, would be offset elsewhere in the budget. Another 10 months of the payroll tax cut would cost roughly $100 billion.

All three items expire at the end February unless Congress reaches a deal.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday pressured Congress to pass the measures and urged Americans to contact their congressional representatives to tell them what would happen if the payroll tax holiday expires.

Earlier, House Democratic leaders said they would back a GOP bill to extend the payroll tax cut, but the Senate minority leader declined to endorse the plan.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said her caucus leadership would support the standalone measure when it is brought to the floor, now that the Republican leaders announced they no longer would demand the tax cut be offset by spending cuts, The Hill reported.

However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. R-Ky., declined to back the extension after telling reporters last week Congress should not extend the 4.2 percent payroll tax rate for the rest of the year by adding to the estimated $1.3 trillion federal deficit for 2012.

"I don't have a view on it right now," McConnell said of the House plan Tuesday.

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