WASHINGTON – House-Senate talks on renewing a payroll tax cut that delivers about $20 a week to the average worker yielded a tentative agreement Tuesday, with lawmakers planning to unveil the pact Wednesday and sending the measure to President Barack Obama as early as this week.
Under the outlines of the emerging agreement, a 2 percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax would be extended through the end of the year, with the nearly $100 billion cost added to the deficit. Jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed would be renewed as well, with the $30 billion cost paid for in part through auctioning broadcast spectrum to wireless companies and requiring federal workers to contribute more toward their pensions.
GOP lawmakers leaving a party meeting said they were told a tentative pact had been reached but said some details could change before the compromise was finalized, probably on Wednesday. They described the session as largely positive, and several predicted the House would approve the deal.
The payroll tax cut and renewing jobless benefits were key planks in Obama’s jobs program, which was announced in September. The payroll tax cut benefits 160 million Americans and delivers a tax cut of about $20 a week for a typical worker making $50,000 a year. People making a $100,000 salary would get a $2,000 tax cut.
The deal would not only be a win for Obama but would take the payroll tax fight – which put Republicans on the defensive – off the table for the fall election campaign.
“The mood is to get it off the table,” freshman Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said. “We’ve got to move on to another issue.”