Congress passed an extension of the 2% payroll tax cut that had been scheduled to expire at the end of February. The extension means 160 million working Americans will continue to pay social security tax on their wages at a 4.2% rate for the rest of 2012, rather than at a 6.2% rate.
Because Republicans and Democrats were unable to agree on how to pay for the extended tax cut, the law included no spending cuts to offset the estimated $93 billion cost of this provision.
The law also provides for long-term federal unemployment benefits, setting the maximum at 73 weeks in states with the worst unemployment and 63 weeks for other states.
Another provision in the law includes the so-called “doc fix” that prevents a scheduled 27% reduction in Medicare payments to doctors.
The unemployment benefits and doctor payments will be paid for by government sales of broadband spectrum, requiring federal workers hired after this year to contribute more to their pensions, and cuts in certain health programs.