WASHINGTON — The House and Senate today raced to approve a measure that will extend the current payroll tax cut for 2 months and also extend current Medicare physician reimbursement rates for 2 months.
President Obama signed the measure into law today at the White House.
House Republicans agreed to a compromise late Thursday after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for them to approve the 2-month extension.
House Republicans have been backing a version of H.R. 3630 that would extend the payroll tax cut and a package of Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program payment provisions for 1 year.
If Obama had not signed the new compromise version, the 650,000 doctors who accept Medicare would have gotten a 27.4% rate cut in January 2012.
The payroll tax cut reduces the Social Security payroll tax rate by 2 percentage points.
Like the Medicare physician rate schedule, the payroll tax cut and the other health program payment provisions were scheduled to expire Jan. 1, 2012.
Originally, both the House and the Senate were trying to pass 1-year payroll tax cut extension bills.
When Republicans were unable to come to terms with Democrats in the Senate, leaders of both parties shortened the 1-year extension period to just 60 days. They said they would pass a longer term extension later.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reportedly had thought other House Republicans would accept the 60-day extension compromise; he proved to be wrong.
But the House Republicans' effort to force a holiday season confrontation with Obama and Senate Democrats over the extension backfired. Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist, criticized the House Republicans' strategy and said it could interfere with efforts to unseat Obama.