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Congress: House passes tax deal; heads to Obama's desk

“A massive bipartisan tax package preventing a big New Year's Day tax hike for millions of Americans is on its way to President Barack Obama for his signature. The measure would extend tax cuts for families at every income level, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and enact a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.”

Per NBC’s Shawna Thomas, the vote was 277 yes, 148 no, with 139 Democrats voting yes and 36 Republicans voting no. Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t vote, while Minority Leader John Boehner and Majority Steny Hoyer voted for it, and Majority Whip James Clyburn voted against it.

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports that President Obama will sign the tax-cut bill into law sometime this afternoon. Time TBD.

The Boston Globe: “The 277-to-148 vote was a political victory for President Obama, who made the case for compromise over complaints from the base of the Democratic Party. Some longtime Obama backers fought the president’s deal late into the night, contending that he had let middle-class America down by not fighting harder to keep a campaign promise: end the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans. Instead, the group Obama had to rely on for critical support last night was the one he had spent his first two years battling, Republicans.”

Adds the New York Times, “The vote sealed the first major deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans as Democrats put aside their objections and bowed to the realignment of power brought about by their crushing election losses. The bipartisan support for the tax deal also underscored the urgency felt by the administration and by lawmakers in both parties to prop up the still-struggling economy and to prevent an across-the-board tax increase that was set to occur if the rates enacted under President George W. Bush had expired, as scheduled, at the end of the month.”

“An attempt to change the bill’s estate tax language was rejected, 194-233, on the floor Thursday night. Many House Democrats opposed the bill’s 35 percent tax on estates of more than $5 million, and they wanted to replace it with House-passed language that would set a 45 percent tax on estates of more than $3.5 million,” Roll Call writes.

Reid pulls the omnibus: “Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided last night to abandon a 1,924-page catchall spending measure that’s laced with homestate pet projects known as earmarks,” the Boston Globe writes. “Instead, Reid said he would work with GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who lambasted the omnibus bill, to produce a short-term bill to keep the government running into early next year.”

Scott Brown says he’ll support the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

The Hill: “Invoking cloture means that the Senate would take a procedural vote on the repeal legislation on Saturday and a final vote on the bill by Sunday.”

Democrats will miss a voting member on Monday, however, because Sen. Ron Wyden is having surgery to treat early stage prostate cancer.

“Military leaders dismissed Republican assertions that a new arms treaty with Russia would hamper America’s missile defense efforts as supporters tried yesterday to nudge the pact toward ratification in the Senate,” the AP writes. “Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at the White House yesterday that the treaty ‘in no way limits anything we want or have in mind on missile defense.’ Marine General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Gates’s assertion, saying New START has ‘no prohibitions’ to America’s ability to move forward on missile defense. ‘We need START, and we need it badly,’ Cartwright said.”