published Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

House GOP leaders accept Senate payroll tax cut measure

  • photo
    House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is followed by reporters after holding a news conference on the payroll tax cut on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an abrupt about-face, House Republican leaders Thursday agreed to a two-month extension of a Social Security payroll tax cut and federal unemployment benefits, GOP aides said.

The move reflects a bowing to demands by the Senate and President Barack Obama and appears to all but assure 160 million workers aren't hit by a 2 percentage point increase in the payroll tax on Jan. 1.

It also would renew jobless benefits for almost 2 million people without jobs for more than six months and spare doctors from a big cut in Medicare payments. House Republicans were to hold a telephone conference call on the developments later Thursday.

House Republicans balked at the bipartisan Senate bill earlier this week, and their leaders, as recently as Thursday morning, had insisted that the Senate begin talks on a one-year measure passed by the House last week. The Senate passed a 2-month extension on Saturday.

The decision came swiftly after the top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, urged the House to accept a short-term measure.

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