House Passes Payroll Tax Cut Extension for Two Months

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives quickly, quietly Friday approved a two-month extension of the Social Security payroll tax, ending a week of rancor and assuring more than 160 million people avoid a 2 percentage point increase next year.

The brief House session was a stark contrast to the turmoil that Washington had seen all week. The tax cut agreement was announced Thursday, after rebellious House Republicans refused to go along with the two-month extension.

The Senate is expected to approve the measure, which would then go to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

House GOP members had wanted a full year break, but disagreed with Democrats over how to pay for it. Democrats preferred a surtax on millionaires; Republicans wanted other means, including a federal pay freeze.

The agreement makes technical changes to how businesses withhold taxes, but is otherwise the same measure the Senate passed Saturday, 89-10. The House approved the measure without a roll call, as no objections were raised.

The package would extend for two months the current 4.2 percent Social Security tax paid by employees. It also would continue Medicae payments to doctors at the current rate. If no action had been taken, that rate would have dropped 27.4 percent.

Also continuing will be an extension of jobless benefits to long-term workers. They will continue to be eligible for up to 99 weeks of benefits.

The House session was brief and calm. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., was the only speaker; he thanked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for his efforts. Just two days ago, Hoyer was ignored by the Republican presiding officer as Hoyer tried to bring up the Senate bill. He was unsuccessful.

“I know the American people are pleased we have come together to agree on this extension,” Hoyer said.