Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a member of the payroll conference committee, said that while a few "wrinkles" still remained, negotiators were "very close" to a formal deal to extend the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the Medicare "doc fix," where were set to expire Feb. 29.
"What really counts is we get the job done," Baucus told reporters late this morning, "to provide the unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut for Americans. We're there. There are just a couple little wrinkles that sometimes get in the way, but I think they will all be ironed out today."
Negotiators reached a tentative deal late Tuesday night. The deal, which is still being finalized, would ensure that each taxpayer receive a tax break of about $1,000 at a cost of about $100 billion that would be added directly to the country's credit card. The deal provides up to 99 weeks of unemployment insurance in states with extended benefits and up to 89 weeks for others.
Baucus, one of the main negotiators on the Senate side, said he's "pretty optimistic" that the last few details of the deal would be finished today. The senator admitted that a last-minute compromise came together in part because of legislators' acute understanding of how a failure to extend the payroll tax credit would affect their already tarnished image to Americans.
"I think, frankly, that a lot of people in Washington, D.C., know that Congress is not enjoying such a great reputation, and here's an opportunity to reach an agreement, to show that we can get our work done," Baucus said.