Leaders in Washington to vote on a temporary spending deal

If the House of Representatives fails to approve a two month extension of the payroll tax cut, the government may soon be out of options.

Jeremy Hobson: Lawmakers are on track to pass a $1 trillion spending bill this afternoon to avoid a government shutdown at midnight tonight. That's likely to clear the way for a short-term extension of the payroll tax cut. But the bill that's expected to pass today does include some changes that'll affect all of us.

Marketplace's Scott Tong is with us live from Washington with more on all of that. Good morning Scott.

Scott Tong: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: Well, I guess we should start with the big change -- or thing that's going to stay the same -- which is that the government is not going to be shut down.

Tong: Yes. And so what that means is, government offices stay open; it ensures services like processing Social Security checks will keep going; the Pentagon operations.

As far as the economy, I just now spoke to Mark Zandi over at Moody's Analytics. And he said, in this soft economy, we just avoided a big economic blow.

Mark Zandi: The most direct is you get a couple million federal government employees, many of whom wouldn't go to work and may not get a paycheck for a while. So that's pretty disruptive at this time of the year.

So now, presumably federal workers will keep shopping for Christmas, buying gas, and all that kind of economic activity, Jeremy.

Hobson: All right, and what about all the riders, as they're called, in this bill -- the extra stuff that Congress sort of packed in there, since it's probably going to pass?

Tong: Right, the "Christmas Tree ornaments," as they say. Well, it bans Washington, D.C. from funding abortions for poor women. It also bans federal money for needle-exchange programs for drug users.

And then there's this light bulb fight you may have heard about. There's a new law signed by President Bush that was supposed to kick in in January, forcing lightbulbs to be more efficient.

Hobson: Right.

Tong: It doesn't ban the old incandescents, but it makes industry sell the better ones. Republicans leaders argue that this undercuts consumer choice. So this new bill gives no money to implement this law for nine months.

Hobson: Marketplace's Scott Tong in Washington, thanks Scott.

Tong: All right, you're welcome.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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