Senate to vote on spending measure in weekend session
Obama said on Dec. 7 that "any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject. So everybody should be on notice."
Obama recently announced he was postponing a decision until after the 2012 elections on the much-studied proposal. Environmentalists oppose the project, but several unions support it, and the legislation puts the president in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between customary political allies.
Republican senators leaving a closed-door meeting put the price tag of the two-month package at between $30 billion and $40 billion said the cost would be covered by raising fees on new mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The fees, drawn from a Treasury Department housing finance market reform plan, would add several thousand dollars to the 30-year cost of home loans guaranteed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae Freddie and Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.
A worker making a $100,000 salary would reap a tax cut of about $330 through the short-term payroll tax extension.
A version of the fee that circulated overnight would effectively raise the interest rate on a mortgage by one-tenth of one percentage point, but the still-undetermined final version — awaiting a score from the Congressional Budget Office — was expected to be lower.
Less than an hour before the scheduled vote, neither the legislation nor a cost estimate had been made public. Donald Stewart, a spokesman for GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the payroll tax vote was likely to be delayed.
The measure would also provide a 60-day reprieve from a scheduled 27 percent cut in the fees paid to doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Officials said that in private talks, the two sides had hoped to reach agreement on the full one-year extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits that Obama had made the centerpiece of the jobs program he submitted to Congress last fall.
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