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House GOP bill links payroll tax cut to oil pipeline approval, cuts to unemployment benefits

A GOP bill that would cut payroll taxes for American workers and approve an oil pipeline also contains changes to federally funded unemployment compensation programs set to expire Dec. 31.

CBS News reports today:

The GOP-run House was expected to approve the roughly $180 billion legislation Tuesday in a battle that each party thinks gives it a chance to win over voters as the 2012 election year approaches. [...]

“The American people want jobs,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “This is as close to a shovel-ready project as you’re ever going to see.”

According to CBS, Democrats “complain that the bill does not do enough for unemployed people coping with one of the worst U.S. economies in decades. The bill prevents extra benefits for the long-term unemployed from expiring on Jan. 1, but would gradually wind down maximum coverage to 59 weeks, well below the current 99-week ceiling.”

According to CNN, “lawmakers could vote as soon as Tuesday on a controversial plan by House Republicans to link the payroll tax cut to government approval of a proposed oil pipeline.”

In early November, House Ways and Means Committee Democrats introduced the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, legislation to extend federal unemployment insurance programs through 2012.

The National Employment Law Project, which supports the proposed Democratic legislation, writes that “the leadership of the House of Representatives has proposed [a bill] to slash the federal [Unemployment Insurance] programs and also do substantial harm to the basic state UI system.”

The Employment Law Project adds (PDF) that the new GOP bill, filed by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., would:

  • Cut the federal program by more than half in 2012, eliminating 40 weeks of benefits.
  • “Allow the last leg of the federal unemployment insurance extension – the 13 to 20 weeks of Extended Benefits (EB) that are available in the hardest-hit states – to expire, mostly over the course 2of the first half of 2012.”
  • Cut extended benefits in states with unemployment rates higher than the national average, which stands at 8.6 percent.

Florida, with an unemployment rate slightly higher than 10 percent, will “feel the impact of the full 40-week cut in benefits” by July 2012.

Camp’s bill also includes tax, Medicare and welfare provisions and “repeals provisions in the Democrat’s Health Care Law.”

According to the Employment Law Project, “over the past three years, federal unemployment insurance has helped more than 17 million Americans,” during the Great Recession’s tough job market.

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