John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner. Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA

House speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that Congressional Republicans have finally agreed to approve a plan to extend the payroll tax cuts for two months. If the extension had not been agreed upon, the cuts would have expired at the end of 2011. The incident marks another chapter of political line-drawing that has polarized the American political system.

Extension comes with provisions

The House will approve the Senate’s proposed two-month extension with a few provisions, so as to not project total capitulation. Among other things, the deal asks for an expedited re-examination of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The extension will begin on Jan. 1, 2012. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will spearhead a committee to work with House Republicans on finalizing a yearlong extension in the coming weeks.

A final vote

A final vote will be made before Christmas, Boehner says.

“I think our members waged a good fight. We were able to come to an agreement. We were able to fix what came out of the Senate.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said:

“With today’s agreement between the Speaker and Leader Reid, working Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their taxes will not go up at the end of the year and that the President will have to finally decide on whether to move forward on a pipeline project that would create thousands of American jobs.”

Controversial pipeline

The 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, if built, would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists oppose the project for the damage they say it will do to the groundwater across the six states the pipeline would traverse.

Obama thanks Americans

President Obama thanked the American citizens who pressured Congress to end the “partisan stalemate.” He said the deal also extends unemployment benefits and is welcome news for struggling Americans in the harsh economy.

Disagree to agree

Both parties have essentially agreed that a yearlong payroll tax cut extension is needed. The Senate-proposed two-month extension is a stopgap measure to allow time to negotiate a longer extension before the current extension expires. The contention between the parties has revolved around how to pay for the extension. The two-month extension has already been funded.




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