Payroll tax fight heads to Senate
Congress took a collective step backward in wrapping up a bitter year of legislating, as President Barack Obama’s top priority over the payroll tax holiday became mired in a battle over unrelated, partisan issues.
House Republicans jammed through a version of the payroll tax bill Tuesday evening that calls for construction of the controversial Keystone KL oil pipeline, scales back an air-pollution rule, cuts Obama’s health reform law and reduces the length of unemployment benefits. It was largely a message vote — the GOP bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate and faced a veto threat anyway — but it sets the stage again for a final, frenzied bout of deal making that has defined this divided Congress.
The House bill, which passed on a largely party-line 234-193 vote Tuesday night, would extend the current 4.2 percent payroll tax rate to 160 million Americans, preventing a roughly $1,000 annual tax increase for many families starting Jan. 1.
While Republicans felt emboldened by the victory, Democrats planned to kill it in the Senate as soon as Wednesday, forcing the two parties to cut a deal that also would pave the way for a $1 trillion appropriations bill to fund much of the government past Friday. How much each party will budge remains to be seen.