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Lawmakers get tentative deal on payroll tax, jobless benefits

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
(Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers reached a tentative deal on Tuesday on legislation aimed at boosting the economy by extending a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers through this year and continuing long-term jobless benefits, congressional aides said.

The tentative agreement, mainly negotiated by Democratic Senator Max Baucus and Republican Representative Dave Camp, is expected to be formally signed on Wednesday by the bipartisan negotiating panel they head. That would clear the way for a House of Representatives vote possibly by week's end.

The agreement contains a complicated formula for long-term jobless benefits that would allow both Democrats and Republicans to declare victory. The maximum number of weeks to collect unemployment benefits, currently at 99, would gradually fall to 73 by year's end, according to congressional aides.

Congressional Democrats had been pushing to keep the 99-week maximum for jobless benefits because millions of Americans are still struggling to find jobs, while Republicans wanted a 59-week cap. A 79-week compromise has been proposed by Obama.

Details of the accord were outlined late on Tuesday to Republican House members. A senior House Republican aide told Reuters the deal's fate was still unclear.

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