90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, February 17, 2012

Congress Approves Extension Of Payroll Tax Cut, Jobless Benefits

By: The ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON – Congress on Friday approved legislation renewing a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers and jobless benefits for millions more, backing the main items on President Barack Obama’s jobs agenda in a rare burst of Washington bipartisanship.

The Senate approved the $143 billion measure on a bipartisan 60-36 vote minutes after the House approved it by a sweeping 293-132 vote. Obama is expected to sign it shortly after returning from a West Coast fundraising swing.

Under the bill, workers would continue to receive a 2 percentage point increase in their paychecks, and people out of work for more than six months would keep jobless benefits averaging about $300 a week, steps that Obama says will help support the fragile recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

It would also head off a steep cut in reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients.

The tax cuts, jobless coverage and higher doctors’ payments would all continue through 2012.

Passage of the legislation hands Obama a victory over objections from many Republicans who oppose it but were eager to wipe the issue from the election-year agenda.

It also clears away a political headache for House Republicans, who blocked a two-month extension of the tax cut and jobless coverage in late December, only to retreat quickly under a buzz saw of opposition from conservative and GOP leaders from around the country.

With that history, Republicans seemed ready to get the fight behind them and change the subject for the rest of this election year.

“We’re dumb, but we’re not stupid,” McCain told reporters after he voted. “We did not want to repeat the debacle of last December. It’s not that complicated.”

Opposition was particularly strong in the Senate, where Republicans opposed the measure by a 2-1 margin. In the House, however, a solid majority of Republicans backed the measure despite reservations about its $89 billion impact on the budget deficit over the coming decade.

And Republicans said the final deal, significantly changed from a tea party-backed measure that passed in December, was the best Republicans could get.

Guest:

  • Gail Chaddock, Capitol Hill correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 19 2 Comments

Paige Rawl Remains ‘Positive’ While Living With HIV

Paige Rawl grew up enduring intense bullying due to her HIV status. Her new memoir recounts the journey.

September 19 3 Comments

Climate Change Activists To Converge On New York

Climate change activists will march on New York this weekend ahead of the United Nation's Climate Change Summit.

September 18 Comment

Terry Gilliam Goes Back To The Dystopian Future

Terry Gilliam's new film, "The Zero Theorem" will be familiar to his fans.

September 18 5 Comments

DJ Sessions: Kansas’ ‘Retro Cocktail Hour’

"Space age pop" and "incredibly strange music" are the songs of the day on this installment of the DJ Sessions.