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Senate Dems' budget dooms Obama projects

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are preparing a catchall government funding bill that denies President Obama money for implementing signature first-term accomplishments such as new regulations on Wall Street and his expansion of government health care subsidies but provides modest additional funding for domestic priorities such as health research.

The measure is the product of bipartisan negotiations and is the legislative vehicle to fund the day-to-day operations of government through Sept. 30 — and prevent a government shutdown when the funding authorization runs out March 27.

Passage in the Senate this week would presage an end to a mostly-overlooked battle between House Republicans and Obama and his Senate Democratic allies over the annual spending bills required to fund federal agency operations.

Washington is girding for weeks of warfare over the budget for next year and beyond as House and Senate Budget Committees this week take up blueprints for the upcoming 2014 budget year.

The first salvo in that battle is coming from House Republicans poised to release on Tuesday a now-familiar budget featuring gestures to block “Obama-care,” turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for retirees and sharply curb Medicaid and domestic agency budgets. Such ideas are dead on arrival with Obama and Democrats controlling the Senate, but will — in concert with taxes on the wealthy enacted in January — allow Republicans to propose a budget that would come to balance within 10 years.

“We think we owe the American people a balanced budget,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Senate Democrats are countering on Wednesday with a budget plan mixing tax increases, cuts to the Pentagon and relatively modest cuts to domestic programs. The measure would not reach balance, but it would undo automatic budget cuts that started taking effect this month and largely leaves alone rapidly growing benefit programs such as Medicare.

“We need to make sure that everybody participates in getting us to a budget that deals with our debt and our deficit responsibly,” said Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Obama's budget proposal is weeks overdue, and Press Secretary Jay Carney deflected questions about it Monday, other than to promise that it would “for a period of time” bring deficits below 3 percent of gross domestic product, a measure that many analysts say is sustainable without damaging the economy.

The wrap-up spending bill for the half-completed fiscal year released Monday, however, is another matter. It's a lowest-common-denominator approach that gives the Pentagon much-sought relief for readiness accounts but adds money sought by Democrats such as Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., for domestic programs such as Head Start, health research, transportation and housing.

Mikulski needs GOP votes to pass the measure through the Senate, which Democrats control with 55 votes but where 60 votes are required for virtually every piece of substantive legislation.

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