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Top Negotiators: ‘We Have Reached an Agreement’ on Payroll Tax Measure

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- The top two negotiators on the payroll tax credit announced early Thursday morning that they have reached a comprehensive, bipartisan deal after months of brinksmanship and tough negotiations.

The top Republican and Democratic negotiators met behind closed doors late into Wednesday evening working out a final agreement.  Finally, at about 12:40 a.m. on Thursday, the duo emerged to break the news to reporters in the Capitol.

“We have reached an agreement,” Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the Republican chairman of the conference committee announced.  “We’re at [legislative] council drafting, and with all drafting there are obviously technical issues that come up, but we’re confident that this can be concluded and so we’re here together to announce that we do have an agreement and we’re moving forward.”

“We have an agreement,” Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Democratic vice chair of the conference committee, echoed.  “A couple of things have to be worked out, but they’re minor and we expect that there will be a final, total result tomorrow.”

The leaders said they were still collecting signatures from the other 18 conferees participating in the conference, but the agreement enables the process to move forward.

“It’s clear that we’ll have a majority of the conferees sign the conference report and we’d like to have them sign it tonight, but we didn’t reach a full agreement until just now,” Baucus said.  “But we have an agreement, and I’m totally convinced and assured -- I’ve talked to conferees.  There will be a majority of conferees will sign.”

Baucus and Camp were unsure how soon the House and Senate could vote to pass the bill, telling reporters those are leadership decisions.  On Wednesday, House Republican leaders said they hoped they could vote by Friday.

The deal will extend the payroll tax credit for another 10 months, reform unemployment insurance and provide a so-called Doc Fix for physicians providing Medicare services.

“This is very important for a lot of people, 160 million Americans, who are now going to maintain their payroll tax cut,” Baucus said.  “Lots of folks who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own are going to receive their unemployment benefits, seniors are going to be able to see their doctors to get Medicare, and it’s good for the country.  Very good for the country.”

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