WASHINGTON — Highlights of legislation renewing payroll tax cuts, jobless benefits approved by the House and Senate:
House bill, approved Dec. 13:
- Price tag over $180 billion.
- Keeps this year's 4.2 percent Social Security payroll tax rate paid by 160 million workers through the end of 2012, instead of rising to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1.
- Extends expiring benefits for the long-term jobless through 2012, but at a maximum of 79 weeks coverage, less in some cases, well below this year's 99-week limit. Revamps program to require beneficiaries without high school diplomas to seek an equivalent degree; lets states test applicants for illegal drug use.
- Prevents 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors for 2012.
- Blocks Obama administration rule curbing pollution from industrial boilers; extends tax break for businesses buying equipment for 2012.
- Requires President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline within 60 days unless he declares the project would not serve the national interest.
- Paid for by extending current pay freeze on civilian federal workers another year through 2013 and requires them to contribute more toward their pensions; raises fee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge for insuring mortgages; raises Medicare premiums paid by higher-income elderly; cuts some health care overhaul law programs; sells part of broadcast spectrum; prevents illegal immigrant parents from collecting child tax credit refund checks; bars food stamps, unemployment benefits for the wealthy.
Senate bill, approved Saturday:
- Price tag $33 billion
- Extends 2-percentage-point cut in Social Security payroll tax through Feb. 29.
- Renews benefits for the long-term unemployed at current levels through Feb. 29, no other changes in program.
- Prevents 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors; extends other healthcare fees through Feb. 29.
- Same provision on Keystone as House.
- Paid for by increasing home loan guarantee fees charged to mortgage lenders by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration by one-tenth of 1 percentage point. The fee is passed on to home buyers and will apply to many new purchases and refinancings starting Jan. 1.
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