Obama signs payroll tax cut extension
Baku, December 24 (AZERTAC). President Barack Obama signed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut Friday, ending what had been a heated political stalemate and sealing a hard-fought win for Democrats on an issue -- taxes -- that has historically favored the GOP.
Earlier in the day, the measure cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives by unanimous consent, a procedural move allowing the measure to pass even though most members of Congress were already home for the holidays.
"This is some good news just in the nick of time," Obama said shortly before departing the White House for Hawaii. But "we have a lot more work to do. This continues to be a make-or-break moment for the middle class in this country."
Among other things, the $33 billion bill also includes a two-month extension of emergency federal unemployment benefits and the so-called "doc fix," a delay in scheduled payment reductions to doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Congress will consider a longer extension of all three measures when it reconvenes in January.
Obama also signed a separate appropriations bill funding the government through September 2012, wrapping up a legislative year marked by repeated partisan brinksmanship and declining public approval of a seemingly dysfunctional Congress.
Political analysts believe the showdown over the payroll holiday extension has eroded Republican strength on the party`s core issue of lower taxes. While GOP leaders first questioned the merit of the tax holiday and then complained that a short-term extension would be more trouble than it`s worth, Obama used the standoff to portray the Republicans as defenders of the rich with a callous attitude toward the burdens of the middle class.
The episode also called into question Speaker John Boehner`s control over the House Republican caucus. The speaker, according to multiple accounts, initially favored the two-month extension, which had passed the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. He was then apparently forced to retreat from that position last weekend in the face of a tea party-fueled revolt in which freshman conservatives in particular demanded an immediate 12-month extension.