WASHINGTON, DC – Congress today approved a $143 billion measure to renew a middle-class tax cut, continue jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, and ensure seniors on Medicare can continue to have access to their doctors.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a member of the bipartisan conference committee charged with working out an agreement on the legislation, issued the following statement: 

“Instead of political gridlock, Congress needs to do more to accelerate economic growth and put Rhode Islanders back to work.

“Last December, partisan ideologues took us to the brink of raising taxes on the middle-class and cutting off unemployment insurance for those hit hardest by the recession. 

“Today, Congress approved a bipartisan plan I helped negotiate to renew the payroll tax cut, which ensures 160 million Americans -- including 600,000 Rhode Islanders -- keep an extra $1,000 on average in their pockets this year.  

“This agreement also continues critical jobless benefits to help the long-term unemployed and boost consumer demand and ensure that approximately 181,000 Rhode Islanders on Medicare will continue to have access to health care services by preventing a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.  

“I fought to ensure extra federal support for high-unemployment states and needed assistance to strengthen and sustain job growth.  The package includes my work sharing legislation, providing $500 million for business-state partnerships nationwide to help prevent layoffs.  Rhode Island’s cost-effective work sharing initiative has helped saved over 10,000 jobs.  Under the new law, during the next three years the state will be relieved of all work sharing payments provided it meets all requirements.  If these provisions would have been in place over the last three years, Rhode Island would have saved an estimated $36 million in state funding.  Those are resources that can now be targeted toward creating jobs and economic growth in Rhode Island.

“I am disappointed Republicans refused to responsibly cover the cost of this compromise by eliminating corporate subsidies and making our tax system fairer.  But without a compromise, the middle-class tax cut and added unemployment insurance would have expired at the end of the month.  We couldn’t let that happen. 

“This bipartisan compromise is a positive step toward fixing our economy and creating jobs in Rhode Island.”

The bill was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 293-132 and in the Senate by a vote of 60-36. 

President Obama said he will sign the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk.