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$1T-plus spending bill taking shape in Congress

WASHINGTON — Weary after a year of partisan bickering, lawmakers reached a tentative agreement Monday on a sprawling $1 trillion-plus spending bill that chips away at military and environmental spending but denies conservatives many of the policy changes they wanted on social issues, government regulations and health care.

Environmentalists succeeded in stopping industry forces from blocking new clean air regulations and a new clean water regulation opposed by mountaintop removal mining interests. But anti-Castro lawmakers appeared likely to win concessions that would weaken administration efforts to ease restrictions on Cuban immigrants on travel to the island and sending cash back to family members there.

On spending, the measure implements this summer's hard-fought budget pact between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. That deal essentially freezes agency budgets, on average, at levels for the recently-completed budget year that were approved back in April.

Drafted behind closed doors, the proposed bill would pay for the war in Afghanistan, but give the Pentagon just a 1 percent boost in annual spending. The Environmental Protection Agency's budget would be cut by 3.5  percent.

The bill also provides money to combat AIDS and famine in Africa, patrols along U.S.-Mexico border, operations of national parks and budget increases for veterans' health care.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said that bargainers had struck an agreement, but would not formally unveil it until today. A House vote is expected Thursday and the Senate is likely to follow in time to meet a midnight Friday deadline before a stopgap funding measure expires.

Payroll tax vote today

House Speaker John Boehner predicted Monday that the House will approve legislation that renews a payroll tax cut and curtails extra benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The House is expected to approve the roughly $180 billion measure today. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said the bill will go nowhere in the Senate, citing a provision all but forcing Obama to move ahead quickly with a controversial oil pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas.

Defense spending: Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators late Monday agreed to a sweeping $662 billion defense bill that requires military custody for terrorism suspects linked to al-Qaida, including those captured within the U.S., and indefinite detention without trial for some suspects.

$1T-plus spending bill taking shape in Congress 12/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 12, 2011 11:23pm]
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