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US House approves Democrats' budget blueprint

THE US House of Representatives yesterday passed a federal budget that embraces President Barack Obama's initiatives on healthcare, energy and education but leaves the government deeply in debt for the foreseeable future.

The House budget is a slightly less expensive version of Obama's US$3.55 trillion plan for fiscal 2010 starting Oct. 1. The Senate is expected to follow late last night passing its own budget plan. Democrats control both chambers.

Passage of the budget bills would be a political victory for Obama, who has said the big increase in spending is central to his plan for rescuing the recession-mired US economy.

The House voted 233-196 to pass the Democrats' US$3.45 trillion budget with no Republican support. It followed a 293-137 vote to reject a Republican alternative that would have slashed spending but expanded tax breaks.

"Democrats know that those policies are the wrong way to go," House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. "Our budget lays the groundwork for a sustained, shared, and job-creating recovery."

Republicans countered that the Democrats' plans were chock-full of too much spending and tax increases which would expand the federal government and hurt the economy further.

"The Democrat plan to increase spending, to increase taxes, and increase the debt makes no difficult choices," said House Republican leader John Boehner. "It's a road map to disaster."

A compromise version of the House and Senate Democrats' measures is expected to take form in coming weeks. The budget legislation is a non-binding spending blueprint that guides later tax and appropriations bills.

The House measure includes special language to allow for speedier consideration of legislation to overhaul the US$2.5 trillion US healthcare system. The Senate budget does not. Republicans in both chambers and some Senate Democrats oppose the move, known as reconciliation.

"At the end of the day, if bipartisanship does not yield healthcare reform, then we will have to move to reconciliation, and we hope that will be the course that the Senate agrees to take as well," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters.


Senators adopted proposals aimed at preventing cuts to the tax deduction for charitable contributions in order to raise revenue for healthcare reform. They also called for greater oversight over the US$700 billion financial bailout program.

Democrats in the Senate also stopped a Republican attempt to pull back US$272 billion from the bailout program and a bid to claw back some of the US$787 billion designated for economic stimulus.

Hoyer called the House Democrats' five-year plan "a responsible and realistic budget that mirrors the president's priorities for healthcare, energy and education" that he also said would help buttress the flagging US economy.

Obama seeks an overhaul of the healthcare system to control spiraling costs and insure millions of people without coverage. On energy, he wants to develop alternative sources and rein in industrial pollutants that contribute to climate change.

Education funding would be increased to boost programs ranging from early learning to college tuition aid.

Republicans see a dangerous expansion of government.

"The administration's budget simply taxes too much, spends too much, and borrows too much at a moment when we can least afford it," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.

The Senate Democratic majority's budget, at US$3.41 trillion for next year, would continue some tax cuts for the middle class while allowing some taxes on the wealthy to rise.


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