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Fate Of Payroll Tax Cut, Jobless Benefits Uncertain As Lawmakers Haggle

Outside the Capitol, there's goodwill. Inside, less so.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Outside the Capitol, there's goodwill. Inside, less so.

A veto threat. Finger-pointing. The end of some jobless benefits.

We've been through all this before this year and we're going through it again as 2011 draws to a close.

As The Associated Press says:

"Defiant Republicans pushed legislation through the House Tuesday night that would keep alive Social Security payroll tax cuts for some 160 million Americans at President Barack Obama's request — but also would require construction of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that has sparked a White House veto threat.

"Passage, on a largely party-line vote of 234-193, sent the measure toward its certain demise in the Democratic-controlled Senate, triggering the final partisan showdown of a remarkably quarrelsome year of divided government."

Or, as The Hillputs it:

"Maneuvering added yet another twist in a rapidly closing window for Congress to act on several high-priority issues. Two major year-end pieces of legislation, the payroll tax package and an omnibus spending bill, converged politically."

Also up in the air: an extension of unemployment benefits for those who've been out of work for an extended period of time.

The Los Angeles Times' editorial board calls all this "vitriolic stumbling" and says "as long as lawmakers have no plan for how to deal with the deficit, the debt and the slack economy, however, they'll just keep stumbling from impasse to impasse."

"No wonder the American public has lost respect for Congress," the Times adds.

Few lawmakers crossed party lines in Tuesday's vote. Just 10 Democrats voted "aye," while just 14 Republicans voted "no." To see how each lawmaker voted, click here.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.