Senate Passes Payroll Tax Cut Extension, Sends Bill to the House for Final Passage

Dec 17, 2011 10:43am

The Senate passed the payroll tax cut extension plan this morning in a rare Saturday session of Congress.

The vote, 89-10, was called by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., at 9:45 a.m.

The vote breakdown: Two Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin, D-West Va. and Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., voted against the bill. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also voted against the bill.

Seven Republicans who voted against the bill: Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Senator Ron Johnson, R- Wis., Senator Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Senator Jim Moran, R-Kan., Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky. did not vote.

The two-month plan, as negotiated last night by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., extends payroll tax cuts, extension of unemployment benefits and the Medicare “doc fix.”

Keystone Pipeline Provision

The bill includes the Keystone XL oil pipeline provision, requiring President Obama to make a decision on the pipeline within 60 days.

The bill is completely paid for by raising fees on new mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It should be noted that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s score came in just this morning – moments before voting – which did not allow Senators much time to review the final score.

The total cost of the bill works out to be $32.9 billion, and CBO estimates that it would reduce the deficit by about $3 billion.

“I know how difficult and hard it is for people to accept our way of doing business. But if you look back over the time we’ve been a country, it’s worked out pretty well,” Reid said on the floor. “People may be disturbed about some of the stuff here on the floor but it truly was a legislative — it was true legislation, because it was compromise.”

While the White House has indicated that they could accept the wording of the Keystone XL oil pipeline provision, the president earlier this month issued a veto threat if the provision was tied in any way to the payroll tax cut.

Today, Reid took responsibility for the inclusion of the provision, noting he’s against the provision but for the sake of getting to any deal it had to be done.

“I was responsible for putting it in this bill. That’s how legislation works. I would also say that we’re thankful that we’ve worked together to make sure that 160 million people have not a tax increase but a continued tax break,” Reid said.

Republicans are rallying behind the Keystone pipeline’s inclusion in the bill – as they drew a line in the sand this week saying they wouldn’t vote for any payroll extension without the provision.

“The main thing that Republicans were fighting for and got was the keystone XL pipeline provision,” McConnell touted on the Senate floor this morning, “All we’re doing is saying the president has 60 days to decide whether the project is in the national interest or not. Sixty days for the president to make a decision one way or the other and since most of us have not heard a good reason from the White House as to why they would block it, I’m very hopeful that the president in the course of this 60 days will do the right thing for the country and get this crucial project underway. The only thing standing between thousands of American workers and the good jobs this project will decide is a presidential decision.”

The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for final passage.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not set a time yet for the vote.

It should be noted that members of the House were sent home to their districts, and Boehner has said he will give them at least 24 hours to get back to Washington for a vote.

If the House passes the bill it will then be sent to President Obama for his signature.

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