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House passes Republican bill to extend payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits

Vote for bill that includes requirement for expedited decision on oil pipeline comes despite fresh veto threat from White House
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Published: December 14, 2011
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Despite a fresh veto threat from the White House, the U.S. House on Tuesday passed a Republican bill that would extend the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits, while forcing an expedited decision on a proposed pipeline that would go through Oklahoma.

The bill passed by a vote of 234 to 193. All five members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation voted for the bill; Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, was one of 10 Democrats to support it.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Democratic leaders have already declared it dead on arrival.

The Republican-led House and the Democratic Senate are divided over how to “pay for” the bill, that is, how to make up for the payroll tax revenue lost to the Social Security system.

Republicans want to freeze federal worker pay, eliminate funding for part of the health care law and make other budget cuts. Democrats want to impose a surcharge on income over $1 million.

Set to expire

The payroll tax, paid by most U.S. workers, was reduced from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011, but that cut is set to expire at the end of this month. The cut is worth about $1,000 to the average family.

The Republican bill would extend it for another year, and extend long-term unemployment benefits for two years.

Republicans said Tuesday that the legislation would accomplish two of President Barack Obama's top priorities while providing a “shovel-ready project” in the Keystone XL pipeline that would create thousands of jobs.

“Unlike the Democratic alternatives, this bill is fully paid for with spending cuts — not tax increases,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore. “Maintaining the current tax cuts and benefits is important to economic growth, but it must be done in a responsible way that does not hurt job creators or add to the debt.”

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