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December 20, 2011 > Senate OKs 2-month extension of payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, finishes spending bill

Senate OKs 2-month extension of payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, finishes spending bill

Submitted By AP Wire Service

WASHINGTON (AP), Dec 17 - The Senate voted Saturday to temporarily avert a Jan. 1 payroll tax increase and benefit cutoff for the long-time unemployed, but forcing a reluctant President Barack Obama to make an election-year choice between unions and environmentalists over whether to build an oil pipeline through the heart of the country.

With the still-reeling economy serving as a backdrop, the Senate's 89-10 vote belied a tortuous battle between Democrats and Republicans that produced the compromise two-month extension of the expiring tax breaks and jobless benefits and forestalled cuts in doctors' Medicare reimbursements.

It also capped a year of divided government marked by raucous partisan fights that tumbled to the brink of a first-ever U.S. default and three federal shutdowns, only to see eleventh-hour deals emerge. It also put the two sides on track to revisit the payroll tax cut early next year as the fights for control of the White House and Congress heat up.

However, House GOP leaders held a conference call Saturday with rank-and-file lawmakers in which participants said strong anger was expressed at the Senate for approving a bill that lasted just two months. No specific date was set for bringing the House back to town or for a vote, they said, injecting uncertainty into the next step.

``You can't have an economic recovery with this,'' said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., of the uncertainty he said the temporary bill would create. ``If the Senate is incapable of doing that, we don't have to accept it.''

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