The bipartisan deal for short-term tax cuts for the middle class and unemployment checks to the jobless passed through the House and Senate Friday without expected objections from any Republicans.
House Speaker John Boehner used a procedural tactic to pass the measure by unanimous consent, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did the same. The contentious package now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.
“I don’t think it’s any time for celebration,” Boehner said Thursday in announcing the agreement, noting that the economy is still struggling and the agreement is the best deal to approve the measures before the Dec. 31 expiration.
Reid thanked Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for sticking to the agreement, adding that voters “didn’t send us here to wage partisan battles and ideological scores.”
“It’s New Years, let’s put those games aside and make it our top priority,” Reid said.
The tax cut from Social Security payments means an extra $19.23 a week for those making $50,000, and an extension of unemployment checks for more than 2 million jobless Americans – both are signature pieces of Obama’s plan to boost the economy and create new jobs.
The House initially passed the one-year package, which includes language forcing Obama to make a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which is expected to create 20,000 jobs.
However, in their haste to leave town last weekend, the Senate rejected the proposal and instead passed a two-month extension, prompting outcries from business leaders that a two month deal was not feasible to enact.
The House upped the ante by rejecting the Senate measure and again passing a one-year extension, pitting the two chambers against each other in a standoff that threatened to kill the package all together.
But it was the House Republicans who were portrayed as heartless Grinches who wanted to protect rich Americans from tax increases, but not middle class taxpayers.
Republicans insisted they were on the side of good policy, but in the end said they were forced to cave in the name of good politics.
“Good politics is what got us the position we’re in, in this country,” Rep. Jeff Landry (R. –La.) told Fox News.
The deal first approves the two-month extension, but requires the two chambers to meet in a conference committee to hammer out the details that would extend it for a full year.
Rep. Dave Camp (R.–Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the two-month fix is a short-term patch but that he is confident a year-long agreement will be reached in the conference committee.
“When the Senate returns to work in January, we must finish the job and provide greater certainty for these policies,” Camp said.
Those chosen from the Senate for the conference include Democrat Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
House Republicans appointed to the conference include Reps. Camp, Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, Nan Hayworth of New York, Tom Price of Georgia, Tom Reed of New York and Greg Walden of Oregon.
Although many of these same members served on the failed Super-Committee, Reid said he expects this committee to behave differently.
“This is a new day,” Reid said.
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