Congress Strikes Payroll Tax Deal

Pension, health care issues final sticking points

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 16, 2012 7:35 AM CST | Updated Feb 16, 2012 7:56 AM CST

(Newser) – Congressional negotiators have reached a deal on a $150 billion economic bill that will extend the payroll tax holiday through the end of the year, while also extending unemployment benefits and preventing an automatic cut in doctors' Medicare reimbursements. Congress could vote on the bill as soon as today, the Washington Post reports, in what White House aides say may be the last significant piece of legislation passed before the election.

The committee signed off on the deal just after midnight, after reaching a compromise requiring new federal workers to contribute more to their pensions. Originally, all federal workers were included, but Maryland Democrat Benjamin Cardin refused to sign off until current workers were protected. The bill also raises $22 billion by selling off part of the wireless spectrum, and scales back unemployment eligibility to 73 weeks in the states hardest hit by the recession, and 63 weeks in healthier ones.

Max Baucus is seen on Capitol Hill in this file photo.   (Getty Images)
The U.S. Capitol is seen, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
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