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Republicans push $915 billion spending bill

By Reuters
Thursday, December 15, 2011 7:11 EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans introduced a $915 billion spending bill in the House of Representatives early on Thursday in an attempt to force Democrats to finalize legislation that would keep the U.S. government operating beyond the weekend.

Only two days are left until a temporary funding measure expires and the government is forced to shut down major services run by the departments of defense, education, health and labor.

But Republican and Democratic lawmakers are fighting over how to extend an expiring payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans, and each side is trying to use the spending bill as a bargaining chip.

The bill, which would provide funds for crucial government functions such as patrolling the U.S. borders, has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate unless Democrats agree that the bill is complete. Republicans control the House.

Lawmakers in charge of government spending had reached a tentative agreement on the spending bill on Monday. But at the White House’s request, Senate Democrats have held back in order to force Republicans to stay in town ahead of New Year holidays to reach an agreement on the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

(Reporting By Rachelle Younglai; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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