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Payroll tax bill: Impasse angers workers who could lose $20 a week or more

Payroll tax bill would allow $50,000 a year earner to continue saving $1,000 in taxes annually. Americans are frustrated at the lack of compromise over a payroll tax bill.

By Tammy WebberAssociated Press / December 22, 2011

David Kaiser, an institutional researcher at Miami Dade College in Miami, won't see much impact from the end of the payroll tax cut. But the wrangling in Washington is getting old. ""It seems they want to bring down everything to the last minute and then figure it out," he said Wednesday.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

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CHICAGO

As Americans watch yet another political drama play out on Capitol Hill — this time over whether to extend the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits — they have a question for Congress: Can't you all just get along? For once?

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"It's like, 'Kids, kids, kids,'" said Brenda Bissett, a lawyer from Santa Clarita, Calif., as she waited for coffee Wednesday at a Starbuck's in downtown Los Angeles. "It's just frustrating that there's no compromise ... I do it all the time."

Around the country, people of different backgrounds, incomes and political leanings say they're angry and downright disgusted by the posturing in Washington after the House rejected a payroll tax bill passed by the Senate that would extend the cuts for two months, then both chambers adjourned for the holidays.

If lawmakers don't act by Jan. 1, payroll taxes will jump almost $20 a week, or $1,000 a year, for a worker earning $50,000, and as much as $82 a week, or $4,272 a year, for a household with two high-paid workers. What's more, about 6 million people could lose unemployment benefits, and Medicare payments to doctors would be slashed.

"It's just another smack in our face for the working public. We just can't get ahead," said Mike Pryor, a construction worker from Aurora, Ill. "It seems like everything that Congress is doing is always against us ... I mean, I'm at a loss for words, and I just can't understand it, why they have to keep arguing."

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders to return to Washington to pass a short-term payroll tax cut extension before New Year's Day, then work later on a full-year measure.

Leaders from both chambers say they want the other side to return, too, though they still disagree on whether it should be to negotiate a two-month extension or a one-year deal favored by House Republicans.

Meanwhile, the public can only wait and wonder — and stew.

At Augie & Ray's, a popular eatery in East Hartford, Conn., the consensus among several diners Wednesday was that the partisan bickering was eroding their already shaky faith in Congress. To some, that was just as frustrating as the idea that their paychecks could shrink.

"It's us, the average Joe, that's getting caught in the middle," said Ray Ramsey, a retired utility meter technician who works part-time for a medical-supply company.

Fellow diner Richard Longo, who owns a building-maintenance business, said he worries about the effect of thetaxes on himself and his 30-plus employees. But he thinks there's a lot of blame to go around.

"I truly believe that if the sides were reversed, if we had a Republican president and a Democratic Congress, we'd still be going through the same thing," he said.