Some rank-and-file Republicans continued to grumble that the measure was flawed and that the payroll tax cut, first enacted in December of 2010, has done little to prop up the economy. But the prevailing instinct among Republicans was political survival and not wanting to look like they were getting in the way of an election-year tax cut.
"Not going to do this again, but if it gets us through the year, gets this issue off the table, it's worth doing this way," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
One snag on Wednesday, aides said, had involved a spat over new auctions of wireless spectrum, a key provision required to help defray the $30 billion cost of extending jobless benefits. House Republicans moved in the Democrats' direction on the amount of money dedicated to creating the public safety communications network for first responders.
Republicans claimed victory in reducing the number of weeks of jobless benefits that workers would be eligible to receive. The maximum number in states with the highest jobless rates would be cut from 99 weeks to 73 weeks by the end of the year, according to aides in both parties. Republicans had wanted to cut the maximum to 59 weeks.
But in states with particularly high unemployment, such as Rhode Island and Nevada, the measure is actually more generous over the next few months than current law.
Negotiators also dropped House-passed language that would have forced low-income people to have Social Security numbers in order to get government checks by claiming the children's tax credit, a move that was aimed at illegal immigrants and caused a furor among many Hispanics.
Republicans also dropped a proposal requiring unemployed people to seek high school equivalency degrees to obtain benefits. But a GOP provision requiring jobless people to be more diligent in job searches as a condition of receiving benefits was included.
The measure also would prevent welfare recipients from using their electronic benefits cards to withdraw money at ATMs in strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores.
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