Congress to vote on $1 trillion bill to fund government 9 more months
The House and Senate are set to vote Friday on a huge omnibus bill to fund government for the rest of fiscal 2012. Unemployment insurance and payroll tax cut are still up in the air.
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But the prospect of a government shutdown lowered the heated rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. Republicans agreed to boost funding for enforcement of Wall Street regulations passed by the previous Democratic-led Congress.Skip to next paragraph
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In a gesture toward resolving the payroll-tax standoff, Democrats said they might yield on their demand for the surtax on millionaires – which has been a nonstarter for Republicans.
He added: “There is absolutely no interest on our part in trying to be strident about this. We believe that it’s important to keep this government open, and we believe it’s important to finish the work on the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance, and the ‘doc fix.’ "
Significant differences remain between House and Senate negotiators over extending the payroll tax holiday, extended unemployment benefits, and a “fix” to a formula that would mean an immediate 27 percent pay cut to doctors who treat Medicare patients.
The House has already passed a bill that tackles these issues, but Senate Democrats oppose a provision that gradually cuts back the maximum number of weeks of unemployment benefits from the current 99 to 59. They also dislike a provision that explicitly allows states to require drug tests of jobless workers seeking benefits. Republicans say their reforms will help get workers back to work. Democrats say that, with four workers chasing every one job, that’s unrealistic.
“I want to call the recipients of TARP money to also be drug-tested,” quipped Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa, referring to the Wall Street bailouts launched in the Bush administration. “We’d pick up some of these cocaine sniffers up in New York.”