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House Republicans put forward new stopgap spending measure as budget stalemate continues

The stopgap spending bill would keep the government running through April 8 as both sides in the budget battle seek to avert a new threat of a government shutdown. A House vote is expected next week, but Senate Democrats are increasingly opposed to the temporary measures.

March 11, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro | Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The Republican-led House on Friday offered a three-week stopgap spending measure to keep the government funded as both sides of the budget stalemate in Congress seek to avoid another threat of a government shutdown.

The legislation would cut spending by $6 billion over three weeks, on par with the rate of reductions Republicans have sought in a House-passed bill that Democrats opposed. It is expected to be voted on early next week in the House.

Both Democrats and Republicans want to avert a disruption in federal services when the existing short-term measure expires March 18. But Senate Democrats are increasingly opposed to further stopgap measures, which they say create economic uncertainty.

Democrats have pushed to broaden the debate, arguing that deficit-reduction efforts should not come from cuts to domestic programs alone. They want to consider reductions in Pentagon spending, changes to the tax code and others -- a prospect that makes it more difficult to resolve the impasse to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

President Obama signaled on Friday that such a debate would come in the months ahead.

"It's going to be important for us to have a conversation after we get the short-term budget done about how do we really tackle the problem in a comprehensive way," Obama said at a news conference.

"And that means not just going after Head Start or Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- that's not where the money is. What it means is, is that we've got to make sure that we're tackling defense spending, we're tackling tax expenditures and tax loopholes, that we're tackling entitlements."

The bill presented Friday largely avoids the deep cuts and controversial policy add-ons that led Democrats to reject the initial Republican proposal to fund the government.

The temporary measure would achieve $6 billion in savings through April 8 mainly by cutting programs Obama had already targeted for termination -- reductions proposed in a Senate Democratic alternative -- and the special earmarked projects lawmakers have requested for their home states.

In test votes earlier this week, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected both the broader GOP and Democratic proposals, showing that both sides would need to compromise to reach long-term solution resolution.

lmascaro@tribune.com

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