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As House debate dragged on into the early hours Friday, House Speaker John Boehner issued a strong message to the White House and Democratic lawmakers: go along with the GOP bill to cut the current 2011 budget, or risk a government shutdown in two weeks.
Boehner dug his heels in and said he would not allow the House to consider a temporary funding resolution to keep the government operating past March 4 unless spending was cut. House Republicans want to slash some $61 billion from the budget.
"I am not going to move any kind of short-term [measure] at current [spending] levels," Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
After recessing so lawmakers could get some sleep, debate resumed later Friday morning as Republicans called up an amendment denying government funds for implementation of the new health law.
The federal government is now operating under a temporary budget, which continues spending at 2010 levels. But it expires March 4.
In the Senate, Democratic leaders want to approve another extension of the temporary funding measure while the two chambers work out their differences.
Some senators indicated they were willing to work with the GOP on making cuts in the 2011 budget. "There will be some additional cuts, we know that," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the Senate leadership, the Washington Post reported.
But regardless of when the House does pass a final measure, the Democratic majority in the Senate is likely to balk at some of the Republican-sponsored cuts -- leaving it unclear whether the chambers will be able to agree on something before the temporary funding measure expires and the government runs out of money.
At its heart, the House debate reflects a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans regarding the role of government in public life.
Republicans want to demonstrate their conviction that the federal government is inefficient, bloated and must be curtailed to create a more competitive economic climate. Democrats, on the other hand, have argued that government plays a vital role in regulation and safety, and the services it provides are critical to ensuring a well-functioning society.
House members have been working late on the federal-spending measure, but with 583 amendments -- demanding hundreds of individual votes -- it is unclear when lawmakers will be able to proceed with a final vote.
Boehner sought to make good on a campaign promise to allow for more open debate. As a result, House members were able to add the lion's share of amendments to the spending bill, including ones that would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and programs offering energy assistance to low-income families.
Among the amendments that had been voted on as of late Thursday night:
Passed: An amendment to cancel the F-35 jet engine program.
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