on extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans apparently broke a log-jam. House and Senate negotiators had a deadline at the end of the month to extend the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and prevent a sharp cut in reimbursements to Medicare providers.
On Monday, much to the surprise and dismay of rank-and-file Republicans, House leadership capitulated on their insistence that the tax cuts be paid for. After that fell, negotiators apparently decided to push through the rest, so this tentative deal covers all three issues. Details are still hard to come by, but here's what reported so far.
Democrats, elated after winning the Republican tax concession after months of clashes, said they had also been able to beat back Republican attempts to significantly reduce the number of weeks that the unemployed could draw benefits and block new conditions Republicans had wanted to put on jobless pay, like forcing beneficiaries to seek high school equivalency degrees.
Republicans did force Democrats to pay for the added unemployment benefits through a freeze on federal workers’ pay, aides said, an approach Democrats had opposed.
How much they reduced the number of weeks of unemployment is still unclear, as is whether they agreed to the health care cuts Republicans were demanding for the Medicare issue. More on that as the details emerge. Congress will probably vote on the conference before Friday, though "senior aides warned that negotiators still had to formally sign off on the agreement and that obstacles could surface given the long-running tensions over the measure."