Obama takes victory lap on payroll tax holiday

President Obama applauded Congress for extending the payroll tax cut bill Friday, saying legislators "did the right thing" in voting to extend the holiday and unemployment insurance.

"Today, we took one important short-term step to strengthen the economy. Just before we got here, Congress did the right thing, and voted to make sure that taxes won’t go up on middle-class families at the end of this month," Obama said, speaking at the Boeing airplane factory in Everett, Wash.

The president pledged to sign the bill immediately upon returning to Washington.

"It's a big deal. And I want to thank Congress for listening to the voices of the American people," Obama said.

"It's amazing what Congress can accomplish when they focus on doing the right thing instead of playing politics."

It was rare praise from the president, who has used Congress as a foil in recent months, frequently blasting Republicans for holding up renewal of the popular tax holiday. But the fight provided a legislative victory for the president, who has seen his popularity increase as he advocated for the measures.

The bill passed by a 60-36 margin in the Senate and 293-132 in the House. Approval was cleared after House Republicans, bruised after a December battle over the tax cut, announced this week they could agree to extend the tax cut without paying for it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation will add $89 billion to the deficit over the next decade.  

Republicans on Thursday blasted the president for going into campaign mode, noting a White House statement that called the tax cut the final "must-pass" bill before the election.

“According to the White House, when he signs this bill, he’s finished,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. “For those of you who haven’t noticed, the president checked out last Labor Day and has been unengaged in leading our country ever since. It has been one nonstop campaign trip after another. So he can campaign all he wants, but the Republicans are going to stay focused on jobs.”

But the president, buoyed by his recent win, demanded Congress immediately consider some of the tax reforms he proposed in his State of the Union address.

"Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. So my message to Congress is: What are you waiting for? Let’s get this done right now," Obama said.

Obama went on to reiterate his calls for a basic minimum tax on multinational companies, with revenues dedicated to encouraging manufacturers to stay domestic.

"It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America," Obama said. "This Congress should send me these tax reforms and I will sign them right away."

The president has been traveling on the West Coast to attend a series of high-profile fundraisers to aid his reelection campaign. Earlier Friday morning, Obama toured the Boeing factory with executives of the airplane manufacturer and examined the company's new 787 Dreamliner plane.

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