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Getting to the heart through the wrist

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner predicted Monday that the House will approve legislation that renews a payroll tax cut and curtails extra benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The House is expected to approve the roughly $180 billion measure on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said the bill will go nowhere in the Senate, citing a provision all but forcing President Barack Obama to move ahead quickly with a controversial oil pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas.

Boehner, R-Ohio, sidestepped a question about whether he rules out eventually agreeing to a compromise with that chamber.

“The House is going to do its job, in time for the Senate then to do its job,” Boehner told reporters.

Senate Democrats’ version of the bill pays its costs largely by boosting taxes on the wealthy. Republicans prefer freezing federal workers pay and other spending cuts.

The House legislation would continue the Social Security payroll tax that workers pay at 4.2 percent in 2012, the same as this year. That tax is normally 6.2 percent, but was temporarily cut in a bid to spur the economy. The reduction means an extra $1,000 in the wallets of families earning $50,000 annually.

The Democrats’ Senate bill, which that chamber has already rejected, would drop the payroll tax to 3.1 percent next year and provide employers with similar reductions, as Obama has proposed.

If Congress takes no action by Jan. 1, the payroll tax will return to 6.2 percent. Congress is hoping to adjourn for the year before Christmas.

The House GOP bill would also curtail the current 99 weeks of maximum unemployment coverage, dropping it gradually to 59 weeks by mid-2012.

And it would prevent a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors next year, a reduction that could prompt some physicians to stop serving Medicare patients. It would instead increase their Medicare payments by 1 percent each of the next two years.

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