Payroll tax vote blocked by Senate leaders. Bad sign?
Payroll tax measure should have been a quick vote, according to some in Congress. But the Senate will not vote on the House's payroll tax cut until they "finish our most immediate concern first," says the Senate minority leader.
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The payroll measure isn't the only one lawmakers plan to tackle before beginning their year-end vacation, presumably before Christmas.Skip to next paragraph
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Bipartisan lawmakers have reached agreement on a $1 trillion measure financing scores of government agencies through next September, a bill that would avert a federal shutdown this weekend when temporary funding expires.
Democrats, though, are refusing to let the legislation move through Congress until the two parties broker a deal on the payroll tax measure. Democrats hope that will build pressure on Republicans to quickly reach agreement on the payroll tax bill, a tactic Boehner called "outrageous."
The House planned to debate a $662 billion defense bill on Wednesday that charts policy for military personnel, weapons systems and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus national security programs in the Energy Department. House and Senate negotiators wrapped up the bill Monday night after including revisions that address administration concerns over handling of terrorism suspects.
The bill would require that the military take custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates who is involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States, with an exemption for U.S. citizens. The legislation also would deny some suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation's borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention.
Also Wednesday, the Senate defeated dueling Republican and Democratic proposals to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget, falling well short of the two-thirds majorities required.
Republicans say work on the Keystone oil pipeline, proposed to run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to Texas oil refineries, would create 20,000 or more jobs. Opponents say the real figure is more like 3,500.
Obama cited a need for studies of how the pipeline could avoid harming fragile lands in Nebraska when he announced last month that work would be delayed until after next year's elections. The GOP bill would give the president 60 days to act or the needed work permit would be automatically granted.
Another provision that Republicans say would create jobs would derail a proposed federal environmental rule aimed at curbing some industrial pollution.
To cover the payroll tax bill's overall cost, which exceeds $180 billion, the measure ignores Democratic proposals to slap a surtax on people earning more than $1 million annually.
Instead, Republicans would raise the money by continuing a pay freeze on civilian federal workers and requiring them to contribute more to their pensions; making higher-earning seniors pay steeper premiums for Medicare; cutting funds from Obama's 2010 health care overhaul; raising some federal fees; and selling portions of the broadcast spectrum.
The Senate version of the payroll tax legislation may also renew some tax provisions that would otherwise expire Jan. 1, including one providing tax breaks to mass transit commuters.