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Bipartisan Senate vote OKs 'tax extender' bill

WASHINGTON - A $140-billion measure that extends several tax credits and parts of last year's expiring stimulus package - including an additional $45 million for Medicaid in Nassau and Suffolk counties - was passed in a bipartisan vote by the Senate Wednesday.

Six Republicans joined 56 Democrats to pass the measure. It now must be reconciled with the House version, which differs on how to pay for the hefty cost, and could delay its final passage.

The "tax extender" bill, as it is called, won over the Republicans by continuing expiring federal tax credits, including breaks for businesses, research, renewable energy, and individuals' deduction of state and local sales taxes.

But Democrats touted the measure as part of their jobs agenda, citing its one-year extensions of unemployment benefits, COBRA health insurance and halting of a 21 percent cut in Medicare doctor pay.

And it includes $25 billion to extend for another six months last year's stimulus package boost in federal Medicaid funding to help cash-strapped states pay for health care for the poor and avoid some layoffs.

New York state and county governments will get a total of $3 billion in federal Medicaid funds, said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

About $2.3 billion will go to the state government, he said, and the rest will go directly to counties, including about $22 million to Nassau and $23 million to Suffolk.

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