WASHINGTON —President Obama signed into law a huge, holiday-season tax bill extending cuts for all Americans on Friday, saluting a new spirit of political compromise as Republicans applauded and liberals seethed. The benefits include tax cuts for millionaires and the middle class, and longer-term help for the jobless.
The most significant tax legislation in nearly a decade will avert big increases that would have hit millions of people starting in two weeks on New Year's Day. Declared Obama: "We are here with some good news for the American people this holiday season.
"This is progress and that's what they sent us here to achieve," Obama said as a rare bipartisan assembly of lawmakers looked on at the White House.
The package retains Bush-era tax rates for all taxpayers, including the wealthiest Americans, a provision Obama and congressional liberals opposed. It also offers 13 months of extended benefits to the unemployed and attempts to stimulate the economy with a Social Security payroll tax cut for all workers.
At a cost of $858 billion over two years, the deal contains provisions dear to both Democrats and Republicans. It represents the most money that Obama was likely to have been able to dedicate over the next year to the slowly recovering economy. Yet it also increases the federal deficit at a time when the country is growing increasingly anxious about the red ink.
The agreement sets the stage for Obama's new relationship with Congress after a midterm election that stripped Democrats of control of the House.
Obama called for maintaining the spirit of cooperation, declaring he was hopeful "that we might refresh the American people's faith in the capability of their leaders to govern in challenging times."
Conspicuous by their absence at the ceremony were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a reflection of the sharply divided sentiment about the bill in the Democratic caucus.
Most House members from Kansas voted to support the tax package compromise worked out between Obama and Republicans.
In the Kansas delegation, Republicans Lynn Jenkins and Todd Tiahrt and Democrat Dennis Moore supported the tax package, which also extended unemployment aid for those whose benefits have expired. Rep. Jerry Moran was among 36 House Republicans who opposed the bill.