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House Eyes Ways to Pay for Payroll Deal

The House is expected to pass two key bills Wednesday that Republicans hope to ultimately include in the looming payroll tax cut deal: a pay freeze for federal employees and legislation barring food stamp debit cards from being used in liquor stores or strip clubs.

The two measures are part of a handful of “pay fors” Republicans want to use in order to offset the cost of the payroll bill, which will also include an extension of unemployment insurance and Medicare reimbursement language.

Conferees are set to meet Wednesday on the payroll bill.

According to a GOP leadership aide, both bills are expected to pass by wide, bipartisan margins Wednesday, which could help the GOP push the proposals as part of the broader payroll tax bill.

The votes are intended “to show there is bipartisan support for these things and that [would] strengthen the hand of our conferees” on the payroll deal, the aide said.

The federal pay freeze bill is particularly popular with Republicans who see it as a common-sense way to help make up a significant amount of the funding needed to pay for the bill. The legislation has become even more popular in recent days in light of new studies indicating federal workers make more than their private sector counterparts.

But while Republicans and much of the public may back a freeze on federal pay, it could run into significant resistance in the conference committee.

Conferee Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), who represents and frequently advocates for federal workers, had his doubts Tuesday and said he will push back against efforts to take more from those on the government payroll.

“The federal workers have already made a sacrifice,” Cardin said. “I’ll take a look at the vote in the House. I find it hard to believe it will be a bipartisan vote.”

Similarly, the food stamp bill could also have troubles of its own.

Although popular with Republicans, opponents are concerned about the impact it could have on poor communities where liquor stores are often the only sources of food.

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.

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