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Congress passes payroll tax deal

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 Congress approved a two-month payroll tax cut extension on Friday, capping an exhausting year of partisan warfare over taxes and spending that will resume in January, with the economy barely scratching out a recovery and elections on the horizon.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, by voice votes in chambers nearly emptied for the holidays, passed a $33 billion measure to keep the payroll tax rate at 4.2 percent until the end of February. It had been slated to increase after December 31 to 6.2 percent.

The temporary fix lets lawmakers draw down the curtain, for now, on weeks of partisan deadlock that in the end produced only another inconclusive truce in a debate over taxes and spending that is set to rage straight through 2012.

The temporary payroll tax fix gives President Barack Obama and the Democrats a political win over Republicans. The 2012 election cycle is about to kick off with the January 3 Iowa Republican presidential caucus, but a long road lies ahead until voters go to polls in November.

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