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Nation/World

February 1, 2013

Congress sends bill to Obama averting government default

(Continued)

That was designed as a prod to the Senate, where majority Democrats have failed to bring a budget to a vote in any of the past three years. This year, they say they will. Republicans say they are eager for a comparison of plans, rather than a long year spent defending one of their own.

Already, the next conflict over budget priorities is taking shape, in an environment includes a fresh report that the economy unexpectedly declined in the last quarter, and the emergence of a warning from the Pentagon’s top uniformed officers that pending defense cuts could lead to a “hollow force.”

Without changes, “we will have to ground aircraft, return ships to port, and stop driving combat vehicles in training,” members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote congressional leaders in a letter dated Jan. 14.

Obama and Democrats say they are prepared for further deficit reduction compromise, although they stress they want increased tax revenue as part of any deal.

Republicans want spending cuts only, after reluctantly swallowing $600 billion in higher taxes as part of a “fiscal cliff” compromise late last year.

To further their goals, House Republicans intend to produce a budget that balances in a decade, and are expected to vote as early as next week to demand Obama do the same.

Obama’s budget is due to be made public later this month, although there is no expectation it will eliminate red ink in the next 10 years. Nor are majority Democrats in the Senate expected to do so either.

In the meantime, though, they are likely to propose legislation in the next few weeks to replace the looming across-the-board cuts with a series of targeted reductions and higher taxes.

In all, 50 Democrats, 12 Republicans and two independents voted in favor of the debt limit bill, while 33 Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia opposed it.

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