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Highlights of payroll tax-jobless benefits bill

By The Associated Press
December 23, 2011
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Key features of payroll tax and jobless benefits bill passed Friday by the House and Senate:

--Retains through Feb. 29 the current 4.2 percent rate for Social Security payroll taxes paid by 160 million workers, instead of letting the rate rise to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1.

--Renews federal benefits averaging $300 a week for the long-term unemployed through Feb. 29.

--Prevents 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors; extends other health care fees through Feb. 29.

--Requires President Barack Obama to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas within 60 days unless he declares the project would not serve the national interest.

--Price tag of $33 billion. Paid for by increasing home loan guarantee fees charged to mortgage lenders by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration by one-tenth of 1 percentage point. The fee is passed on to home buyers and will apply to many new purchases and refinancings starting Jan. 1. For a $200,000 mortgage, the fee increases a borrower's cost by about $17 a month.

--Requires House and Senate leaders in both parties to name negotiators to work on a bill extending the payroll tax cut for a year, extend federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and keep Medicare payments to doctors at their current level.

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