5:05am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

Congress Averts Government Shutdown, But Still Divided On Payroll Tax Cut

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 11:59 am

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Government Will Not Shutdown:

The House of Representatives just passed a $1 trillion spending bill that will keep the government running through the fall. Congress, however, is still deadlocked on two major pieces of legislation. The extension of the payroll tax cut, which is a priority for the Obama administration and an extension of jobless benefits to to the long-term unemployed.

Our Original Post Continues:

While it looks like there won't be a partial shutdown of the federal government later today, thanks to a deal on a $1 trillion-plus spending measure, there's still no agreement on extending the program that provides jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed or on extending a cut in the payroll tax.

As NPR's Tamara Keith said on Morning Edition, however, even though Republicans and Democrats have sharp disagreements on how to get those extensions done, lawmakers really, really don't want to go home for the holidays without having some taken action on the payroll tax and unemployment benefit issues. So stay tuned.

According to The Washington Post, the solution that members of Congress come up with on the payroll tax cut extension might basically be to kick the issue down the road. Lawmakers are "considering extending the $120 billion tax break for two months to buy more time to determine how they offset the benefit's cost so it does not add to the federal deficit," the Post says.

The Associated Press says there's talk among lawmakers about also extending the long-term unemployment benefits for another two months.

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