Senate Passes Two-Month Extension of Payroll Tax Cut

Posted December 17, 2011 at 9:47am

The Senate today passed a two-month extension of a payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and the Medicare “doc fix” on a bipartisan vote of 89-10, sending it to the House for final passage.

The measure also included language on the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would require the administration to make a decision on whether to authorize the project within 60 days.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been encouraged to negotiate a deal by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and the House is likely to vote on the package early next week.

The Senate began voting on the agreement early this morning without a score from the Congressional Budget Office, a rare and bizarre move that could have backfired on leaders had the non-partisan office come back with a report that indicated the legislation added to the deficit.

In the middle of the vote a score assessing that the package would reduce the deficit by $3 billion was made available. The overall price tag for the short-term measure is $32.7 billion dollars, and the way it is paid for — an increase in mortgage fees by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — is projected to bring $35.7 billion back in to government coffers.

Democrats had been pushing for a one-year extension of the expiring provisions, but could not agree with Republicans on how to pay for a larger bill.

Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), as well as Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.) voted against the package.