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Obama urges Congress to find common ground

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama Saturday urged Congress to find "common ground" to prevent a damaging government shutdown, as Republicans and Democrats edged toward a compromise to keep federal money flowing.

"Next week, Congress will focus on a short-term budget. For the sake of our people and our economy, we cannot allow gridlock to prevail," Obama said in his weekly radio address.

House Republicans on Friday detailed some $4 billion in spending cuts for a two-week stopgap spending bill, which the leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate indicated could be acceptable.

That would buy time for Congress to try to work out a plan to fund the government through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

"We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures . . . and instead moving closer to Democrats' position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way that targets waste and excess while keeping our economy growing," Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, said Friday.

The GOP plan is to be debated by the House on Tuesday.

The parties must agree to a stopgap measure next week to keep funding the government, or on March 4 it will run out of cash and nonessential services will be halted.

The stopgap measure House Republicans proposed would continue funding for two weeks for all programs except for some that already had been targeted for cuts in Obama's recent budget plan for fiscal 2012, which begins Oct. 1.

It also would eliminate funding that had been earmarked for lawmakers' pet projects for this year. Those include $293 million for transportation projects and $173 million for economic development projects.

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