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Washington’s elves hard at work before holidays

<p>Lawmakers gird for last-minute spending showdown; vote Saturday and Senate passes Obama’s $858B tax cut plan; now it’s House’s turn.<br /></p>


The U.S. Senate headed for a last-minute showdown over spending as Republicans vowed yesterday to block a bill laden with pet projects that would fund the entire government.

With prospects uncertain for the $1.1 trillion measure, lawmakers planned for a vote Saturday, mere hours before funding expires for everything from nuclear submarines to national parks.

Senate Republicans blasted the bill as a crude Democratic attempt to push through funding for pet projects known as earmarks before the new year, when Republicans will wield greater clout in Washington.

Republicans also objected to the $8 billion worth of pet spending projects tucked into the bill, even though they personally requested many of the earmarks. Many voters view earmarks as a prime example of wasteful government spending, and Republicans vowed to renounce them after winning big in the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

“We will reject any earmarks requested by us or anyone else because that’s what the American people have said they want,’’ said Republican Sen. John Cornyn.


A deal that President Barack Obama struck with Republicans to extend tax cuts for nearly every working American and spur job growth sailed through the U.S. Senate yesterday.

The Senate passed the legislation 81 to 19, with Democrats and Republicans delivering a rare display of bipartisanship.

The drama now moves to the House of Representatives, where many of Obama’s fellow Democrats strongly oppose the measure as favoring the wealthy and are still angry with him for cutting the deal with Republicans without them.

The House will start debate on the tax deal today, a senior Democratic aide said, and is likely to approve it.

The legislation would extend for two years the income tax cuts enacted under Republican former President George W. Bush, with Democrats backing off their earlier fervent opposition to extending the cuts for the richest Americans. The Bush-era cuts are due to expire at the end of 2010 unless Congress acts.

The measure also would prevent a spike in taxes on capital gains and dividends, renew long-term unemployment insurance and provide new tax relief for students, working families and businesses.

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