WASHINGTON With most members already home for the holidays, Congress late in the week reached agreement on a bill that will extend for two months a 2 percent payroll tax cut for workers.

WASHINGTON With most members already home for the holidays, Congress late in the week reached agreement on a bill that will extend for two months a 2 percent payroll tax cut for workers.

The Senate and House approved the legislation without a formal vote ensuring that 160 million workers continue to receive the tax break after Jan. 1. The bill also extends federal benefits to long-term unemployed and continues Medicare payment rates to doctors that otherwise would have been cut.

The swift action came days after the House voted 229-193 against an almost identical bill that the Senate approved with bipartisan support last weekend to give leaders more time to negotiate a longer deal, principally ways to offset its $33 billion cost.

In rejecting that compromise, House Republicans insisted that Congress should continue negotiating through the holidays on a year-long benefits package rather than accept a two-month stopgap they contended would be unworkable.

Democrats charged that Republicans were being goaded by tea party-conservatives to vote against the tax cut bill as leverage for initiatives to shrink the government. House Speaker John Boehner capitulated on Thursday in what was largely seen as a concession that the public was angered and frustrated by the Republican stonewalling.

President Barack Obama signed the short-term bill into law before heading to Hawaii for vacation.

Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro and Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, voted to reject the two-month tax cut. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott voted in favor of the tax cut.

The Senate passed the two-month extension by a 89-10 vote. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark., voted for it.