Congress Passes Extension of Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Benefits

After extended bickering on the matter late last year, the Republicans and Democrats in the House approved a $144 billion package to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance through the end of the year, putting differences aside until after the November elections.

The bill passed with a vote of 293-132.

The Senate approved the bill shortly after the House, in a 60-36 vote.

The payroll tax break gives workers a 2 percent tax break in their paycheck, and will benefit 160 million working Americans. The average worker will receive a $1,000 tax break over the course of the year.

The payroll tax extension will not be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget, which Republicans had earlier sought to avoid adding close to $100 billion to the deficit.

The bill will also extend long-term unemployment insurance and prevent doctors who treat seniors on Medicare from seeing a nearly 30 percent pay cut from the federal government at the end of this month.

The $30 billion cost of extending federal unemployment benefits will be paid for by allowing the federal government to auction off public airwaves currently used for television. It will also increase the contributions new federal workers must make to their pensions.