Washington (CNN) – House and Senate lawmakers appeared very close Tuesday to a broad deal that would keep in place a payroll tax cut, extend long-term unemployment benefits, and prevent a cut in fees to Medicare doctors, top Democratic and Republican aides told CNN.
The three issues are at the center of high stakes election-year negotiations that reflect the priorities of the two parties.
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However, a few outstanding issues still needed to be resolved, according to multiple aides. One Republican aide said he was hopeful a deal could be announced as soon as this evening.
News of progress in the talks comes a day after House Republican leaders abandoned their demand to offset the cost of the nearly $100 billion pay roll tax cut portion of the bill, thereby removing one of the major hurdles to reaching a deal on the overall measure.
The unemployment extension and the so-called "doc fix," which together would cost about $50 billion, would be paid for with spending offsets elsewhere in the budget.
Aides said the last-minute negotiations center on how many weeks of unemployment a person would be eligible for and what, if any, other restrictions might be placed on people getting the aid. Some Republicans want the unemployed to pass drug tests and meet certain education standards before getting benefits, something Democrats have generally opposed.
GOP leaders dropped their insistence the payroll tax cut be offset, they said, because Democrats wouldn't agree to spending cuts and Republicans were wary of both the economic and political fallout if the payroll tax cut was not extended.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet in closed-session Tuesday evening to discuss the bill and hear from rank-and-file lawmakers about whether they're willing to accept extending the payroll tax break without offsetting the cost.