Congress delivered a Christmas Eve Eve present to millions of American today by approving a two-month extension of the 4.2 percent payroll tax rate.
The gift was grudgingly given by the House, which just two days ago rejected a Senate plan to keep the payroll tax lower for the first two months of 2012.
And it was rewrapped in slightly different legislative paper.
This new bill, H.R. 3765, still extends the lower payroll tax rate for 160 million workers, maintains unemployment benefits for millions more and keeps the amount doctors now get paid for treating Medicare patients.
It also retains the provision that forces the president to decide the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
But the House also added language to reduce small business administrative hassles of having to deal with just two months of lower payroll tax collection.
Time for more talking: And the House Republicans who objected to the Senate's similar short-term deal earlier this week finally get the House-Senate conference committee they wanted.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today named Max Baucus of Montana, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania as his party's Senate conferees.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had already tapped as conferees Republican Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan, Greg Walden of Oregon, Tom Price of Georgia, Kevin Brady of Texas, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, and New Yorkers Nan Hayworth and Tom Reed.
Now they get to craft yet another, longer extension of the payroll tax and other laws. That's going to be fun.
You can't please everyone: Although the GOP, particularly its members in the House, took a political beating for refusing the two-month deal, it was that political reality on the eve of an election year that got the deal done, not a sudden Kumbaya conversion among the party's various ideological segments.
The Hill newspaper reported that after Boehner told his party caucus that the payroll tax deal would be done, Tea Party freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) took to Facebook to call the agreement "a sad day for America" and an example of when "the politics of demagoguery trump policy and also principle."
West also reportedly bemoaned that "men and women of principle are become [sic] a dying breed in this Republic."
Those Facebook wall comments are now gone (we all have second thoughts, if not political consultants), but West did post this morning that "I do not support this 2-month concession to demagoguery. This is probably the grossest bit of incompetent legislation I've seen since I've been up there this year."
Welcome to Washington, Mr. West.
And it's probably a good thing that you didn't make it onto the conference committee.
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