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U.S. Senate urged to get the job done

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By Geoff Davis

With the holidays right around the corner, struggling families and American workers face uncertain budgets in the New Year because the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire at the end of this month.

As President Obama said and Speaker John Boehner has echoed, Congress should not adjourn for the holidays until it finishes the pending work on these items.  

Last week, the House passed a responsible bill to provide tax relief, job creation, increased energy security, and a more fiscally responsible extension of UI benefits with important reforms for another year. 

The House passed bill would extend the payroll tax reduction holiday for another year and pay for it by making responsible cuts to other government programs.  Those savings would be directed to the Social Security Trust Fund to make up the difference for the two percent reduction in the payroll tax rate.  This provision will allow the nearly 170 million Americans who pay payroll taxes to keep more of their money during these hard economic times without damaging Social Security.

The House bill also extends benefits for millions of unemployed Americans in a fiscally responsible way, while making needed reforms to the UI program to protect taxpayers and help more Americans get back to work.  It gradually reduces the maximum number of weeks for benefits from a maximum of 99 to 59, and requires benefit recipients to search for work, work towards their GED if they have not finished high school, and participate in reemployment services to help them get reemployed more quickly.

The measure would allow states to perform drug screening or testing as a condition of providing UI benefits, and would give states more flexibility to test new solutions to reemployment.  These reforms would not only provide a safety net for those looking for work, it will help move more people from unemployment checks to paychecks more quickly.

In addition to providing tax relief and extending UI benefits with needed reforms, the House bill includes several initiatives that will help create jobs.  Most importantly, it would require President Obama to stop stalling and make a decision on allowing the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is expected to create 20,000 private sector jobs.  It also includes the EPA Regulatory Relief Act to stop the job crushing Boiler MACT rule.

Finally, the House bill would extend and reform the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and includes a two-year “doc fix” to protect seniors and their doctors from 27 percent Medicare cuts scheduled to take place on Jan. 1.

The House-passed year end package would complete Congress’ legislative business for the year, as President Obama has insisted and we have agreed.  It is fully paid for, does not increase taxes, and will help more Americans get back to work.  We have done our job, it is time for the Senate to do theirs.