WASHINGTON — Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud split today over the vote to extend the payroll tax cut extension and extend unemployment benefits.

Michaud, D-2nd District, backed the package approved by the House 293-132. But Pingree, D-1st District, was one of 41 Democrats to vote against it.

Meanwhile, Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe both voted for the measure in the Senate, which passed the bill 60-36.

Michaud said the bill was an imperfect compromise that extended the payroll tax cut through 2012 and kept long-term unemployment benefits over six months in place for more than 17,300 Mainers whose benefits would have expired.

“At a time when many of our communities continue to face high unemployment, it is critical that Mainers do not see their payroll taxes go up or their federal unemployment benefits expire,” said Michaud. “This bill was not perfect, but no compromise ever is.”

But Pingree said the bill cut back the maximum length of time, from as much as 99 weeks to as few as 63 weeks, for long-term unemployment benefits, and she also said the legislation scales back retirement benefits for federal workers.

“It’s outrageous that the Republicans tied the extension of a tax break for working families to a drastic cut in unemployment benefits and a roll back of retirement benefits for federal workers, including some members of the National Guard and Reserves,” Pingree said in a statement. “The offsets in this bill should have been a surtax on millionaires, not asking federal workers to pay more and cutting unemployment benefits for families that are struggling to find work.”

Collins and Snowe both said before the vote that it is important to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of the year and extend unemployment benefits, though neither was happy that the tax cut extension increases to the federal deficit.

“Ultimately, it was critical to ensure that individuals and small businesses will not face a tax increase, while those millions of Americans seeking a job will continue to receive temporary assistance to help them get by,” Snowe said in a statement after the vote.

“While the extension of the payroll tax cut should have been paid for, Congress should not impose higher taxes on hardworking families at a time when our nation’s economy remains fragile,” Collins said in a statement before the vote. “It’s important that we provide certainty to taxpayers, support for thousands of unemployed Mainers, strengthen the work-search requirement in the unemployment compensation program, and prevent steep cuts in payments for doctors and other health professionals who treat Medicare patients in order to avoid a crisis in access to health care for our seniors.”

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected] Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC

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