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Congress passes payroll tax cut, which now awaits Obama's signature

The U.S. House of Representatives, followed by the U.S. Senate, today passed legislation extending the payroll tax cut for the remainder of the year as well as unemployment insurance.

The House's vote was 293-132, with 147 Democrats and 146 Republicans voting in favor, and with 91 Republicans and 41 Democrats voting against.

Afterward, the Senate passed the legislation by a 60-36 vote, with 14 GOP senators voting for the measure and six Democrats voting against it.

The legislation now goes to President Obama's desk, and he is expected to sign it into law.

What does the bill do?

Payroll Taxes:
- extends the 2% cut on the payroll tax, down from 6.2% to the 4.2% rate through the end of 2012
- the extension of the payroll tax cut will NOT be paid for, adding $100 billion to the deficit.

Unemployment Insurance:
- allows for as much as 99 weeks of unemployment insurance through May, depending on the state. After that, there are 73 weeks of unemployment benefits for states with highest unemployment levels, and 63 weeks of unemployment benefits in most states (versus 93 weeks in most states today).
-- the extension of unemployment insurance will be paid for with a mixture of auctioning off mobile spectrum, as well as a provision that would require NEW federal workers to pay more into their pension plans.             

Medicare "Doc Fix":

- the "doc fix" is extended through the end of 2012, preventing a 27.4% cut in payments to doctors serving Medicare beneficiaries.|
- the extension of the Medicare "doc fix" will be paid for with adjustments to the federal health-care law.