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US House nears Fiscal 2011 spending-cut debate end

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 18 Feb 2011 06:11 GMT
Author: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Click For Restrictions.
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By Richard Cowan and Donna Smith

WASHINGTON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives will try to pass a Republican budget bill on Friday to keep the government running through September with spending cuts of at least ${esc.dollar}61.5 billion, which Senate Democrats have vowed to block.

Now in its fourth day of debate on a bill aimed at trimming a projected ${esc.dollar}1.65 trillion deficit in fiscal 2011, which ends on Sept. 30, the House still had more than 100 amendments to plow through before staging a vote on passage.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate face a March 4 deadline for settling their differences over spending priorities. That is when current funding runs out.

For days now, Republican and Democratic leaders have been trading accusations about who would be responsible for a government shutdown if an agreement cannot be reached in time.

"We have had I think a very elevated week of debate about the entire government," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said after a long, sometimes contentious day of arguing. "But we have a ways yet to go," he added.

The debate has touched on virtually every agency in the sprawling federal government, from the Defense Department, which would get an ${esc.dollar}8 billion funding increase this year, to the Environmental Protection Agency, which would be hit by a 29 percent spending cut.

Much of late Thursday was devoted to an emotional debate on abortion and whether U.S. funds should be cut off to Planned Parenthood.

Representative Barney Frank summed up Democrats' sentiment about the entire bill by saying he hoped "the Senate gives this awful product an appropriate burial,"

Once Republicans push their spending bill through the House, it will be up to the Democratic-controlled Senate to write its version of a bill, which likely would have fewer spending cuts.

President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress have argued that, with the U.S. economy slowly recovering, now is not the time to impose steep reductions they say could jeopardize growth.

Republicans have countered that the bill is a downpayment on even deeper reductions to federal spending and regulation they say will spur the economy and jobs. (Editing by Todd Eastham)

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