US Congress extends tax cut, jobless benefits

The US Congress approved Friday a 10-month extension of the payroll tax cut and federal unemployment benefits.

The bipartisan measure, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 293-132 and prevailed in the Senate by 60 votes to 36, goes now to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the bill as soon as he returns to Washington from campaign events on the West Coast.

The extension of the reduction in the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent represents a savings of around $1,000 for a median-income family.

Another provision of the bill ensures the continuance of special federal unemployment benefits of up to 99 weeks for people who have exhausted state benefits, though the duration of the payments is to be gradually reduced.

The biggest stumbling block in negotiations on the legislation was how to finance the $100 billion cost of extending the tax cuts and jobless benefits.

While Republicans call for more spending cuts, the leader of the Democratic minority in the House, Nancy Pelosi, said the budget deficit should be reduced by increasing taxes on the rich.

Given the deep disagreement, resolving the question of paying for the bill was left for another day. 

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