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House Republicans seeks spending extension

WASHINGTON - House Republicans on Friday detailed a proposal to slash $4 billion in federal spending as part of legislation to keep the government operating for two weeks past a March 4 deadline. They urged Senate Democrats to accept their approach and avoid a government shutdown.

Democrats said they were encouraged that the two sides appeared to be narrowing the gap on possible spending cuts, but warned against Republican efforts to force their position on Congress.

"A government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said in a conference call where he and other Republicans promoted their plan for avoiding the first government shutdown since 1996.

They said failure to work out a deal would put the responsibility for disrupting government services on the Democrats.

The GOP plan, to be debated on the House floor next Tuesday, includes some $1.24 billion in savings, mainly from programs that President Barack Obama had proposed cutting in the fiscal 2012 budget, and the termination of some $2.7 billion in earmarks, or special projects, that are part of this year's budget.

With only a week left before federal spending authority runs out, both parties have sought to preemptively blame the other if a shutdown does occur. Democrats who control the Senate have rejected as draconian a bill passed by the House last week that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 while carrying out $61 billion in spending cuts.

They have called for a short-term extension of federal spending so the parties can negotiate, but at current spending levels. Democrats are also discussing cuts that head in the same direction as the Republicans by focusing on earmarks and accelerating the elimination or trimming of programs recommended in Obama's 2012 budget. But the Democrats would apply the cuts to the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.

The $1.24 billion in program cuts proposed by the GOP-run House Appropriations Committee included $650 million in highway aid for states provided in the fiscal 2010 budget, $250 million for a Striving Readers program that Obama wanted to eliminate next year and $75 million in election assistance grants for states, also slated for elimination in the president's budget.

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