US Congress passes contentious Obama tax deal

A day after the Senate passed the package by an 81-19 margin, the House of Representatives followed suit 277-148, sending the measure to Obama to sign and reap a restorative bipartisan victory six weeks after an elections rout.

The 858-billion-dollar measure was expected to give the US economy a much-needed boost while digging the country's deficit and debt deeper, as the world's richest country emerges from the worst downturn since the 1930s.

Obama had stressed the package extends middle-class tax cuts for two years and jobless benefits for 13 months. But angry Democrats from the party's left flank opposed the plan for including an identical extension for the richest sliver of US earners and rolling back the inheritance tax that affects only the wealthiest estates.

Immediately prior to passage, lawmakers defeated a Democratic amendment to toughen the estate tax provisions in the package by a 194-233 margin.

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