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Obama presses Congress to approve payroll tax cut, jobless benefits

(Xinhua)

08:10, February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to approve the extension of payroll tax cut and the jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed to sustain economic recovery.

In a White House press conference held one day after the administration unveiled its 3.8-trillion-dollar budget for the 2013 fiscal year, Obama called on Congress to swiftly approve the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for the remainder of this year.

The two chambers of Congress in December passed a two-month payroll tax and jobless benefits extension bill after a week-long partisan deadlock. The stopgap measure would expire by the end of this month.

Obama noted that he has seen signs of progress in Congress on this issue, but cautioned that no compromise could be taken for granted in Washington until his signature was on a bill.

With public approval rating for Congress at a record low, House Speaker John Boehner and his top GOP lieutenants announced Monday that they would not insist that the cost of the payroll tax cut extension be offset with spending cuts elsewhere, in a bid to outmaneuver rival Democrats.

"Because the president and Senate Democratic leaders have not allowed their conferees to support a responsible bipartisan agreement, today House Republicans will introduce a backup plan that would simply extend the payroll tax holiday for the remainder of the year while the conference negotiations continue" on other issues, Boehner said in a statement.

Both parties named in December their negotiators for the conference committee, sometimes referred as the "compromise committee" to conduct negotiations on payroll tax cut, jobless benefits and other issues.

"No ideological sideshows to gum up the works. No self- inflicted wounds. Just pass this middle-class tax cut. Pass the extension of unemployment insurance. Do it before it's too late," Obama charged.

"We're still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, and we've still got a lot of work to do and a long way to go," Obama added.

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