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Maryland Attempted To Spare Federal Workers In Payroll Tax Bill

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In negotiations to extend the payroll tax holiday that have dominated Capitol Hill during the past few days, two Maryland Democrats are having a roller coaster week as they fight to protect the salaries of current federal workers. 

President Barack Obama called Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) twice this week, but it wasn't to chat. The Maryland delegation was close to withdrawing its support from a deal to extend the payroll tax holiday for millions of families because the GOP wanted to pay for it on the back of the federal workforce. 

In the end, Cardin says, the delegation was able to protect current federal employees from painful cuts. 

"On the federal employees' side, the bill [that] came over from the House included a pay freeze for an additional year," Cardin says. "That is not in the conference report. It also changed the pension benefits for current workers and future workers. That was not in the final conference report." 

The House bill also would have increased benefits contributions for current federal workers, but that is not in the package expected to come before the Senate today.

Parts of the payroll tax package are paid for by forcing new government hires to pay more into their pensions, which makes it a nonstarter for lawmakers in the region who represent federal workers. Van Hollen says it wasn't hypocritical to vote yes and then no on the legislation.

"I'm not trying to defeat this bill," Van Hollen says. "I think the full House, the Senate and the House, the Congress should have an opportunity to work its will. I don't think a small group of people should deny the full body an opportunity to vote on a very important national matter."

The only Democrat who represents the National Capital Region to support the legislation is Virginia Senator Jim Webb who is retiring at the end of his term.

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