Wrangling Continues over the Payroll Tax Cut

By AccountingWEB Staff 

Time is running out before the payroll tax rate automatically increases in two weeks, and the dispute over how to fund it continues. 
 
The tax measure at issue would maintain the payroll tax rate at 4.2 percent for the year 2012 instead of allowing it to revert to 6.2 percent January 1. It's a tax cut worth about $1,000 to families earning $50,000 a year. The payroll tax bill also would renew benefits for the long-term unemployed and prevent a cut in Medicare benefits for seniors.
 
This morning (December 19), the Associated Press reported that "Boehner spoke after a chaotic weekend in which Senate leaders first failed to agree on a full-year bill, then coalesced around the two-month extension that passed overwhelmingly, only to spark a revolt among GOP conservatives in the House."
 
Here's a summary of what's been happening:
 
While the GOP-led House passed a bill on December 14 extending the tax cut, the legislation relied on a pay freeze and increased pension contributions for civilian federal employees. In addition, it raised Medicare premiums for seniors, and it raised a fee that's charged to banks with mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bill didn't have the votes to pass the Senate.
 
On Friday, December 16, Senate leaders reached an agreement to pass a two-month extension on the payroll tax cut, keeping the 4.2 percent rate through February. The agreement requires the administration to decide within 60 days if the controversial 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline is in the nation's best interests. Some environmental groups oppose the project, but several unions support it.
 
Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, said Keystone XL would create about 20,000 jobs. Critics say the figure would be fewer than 3,500, including fewer than 1,000 that would be permanent.
 
House Speaker, John Boehner, said Friday that his chamber will not sign off on an extension of the payroll tax cut without including a provision to force a quick decision on the pipeline construction. 
 
Obama would prefer to postpone the controversial matter, and he threatened to veto any bill that forces a decision. Because the project crosses international borders, it requires White House approval. The administration complained that House Republicans are injecting "ideological issues into what should be a simple debate about cutting taxes for the middle class."
 

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