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Yippee! Another short-term budget fix

By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Feuding lawmakers have found another small chunk of the federal budget they agree can be cut.

But don't break out the champagne just yet.

By agreeing to a three-week spending bill that would cut $6 billion, lawmakers are kicking the can down the road while they attempt to negotiate a spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year.

On Friday, House Republicans introduced a bill that would reduce or terminate 2011 funding for 25 government programs, for savings of $3.5 billion; it would eliminate an additional $2.6 billion in earmarks.

The Republicans identified the programs to cut by combing their own budget plan and Obama's 2012 budget proposal for spots where they agreed.

And for that reason, the top Democrat in the Senate was quick to say he supported the measure.

"I am glad that we were able to come to an agreement with Republicans on a three-week continuing resolution made up of cuts already proposed by Democrats that will also be free of any ideological, special-interest legislation," Sen. Harry Reid said in a statement.

On the chopping block are programs within the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency and Social Security Administration that both Obama and House Republicans want to cut.

It's the second time Congress has agreed to cut the budget this way, and when enacted, it will be the sixth short-term budget fix of the year. (How Congress is failing to pass a real budget)

For lawmakers, the real difficulty will start when the parties run out of things they both agree should be cut. In one section of the budget, they are already scraping the bottom of the barrel.

In the most recent budget compromise, lawmakers agreed to cut $2.7 billion in earmarks. Friday's bill would cut another $2.6 billion for a total of $5.3 billion.

After those reductions, pretty much all that's left to cut is defense earmarks, according to Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan spending watchdog group.

And defense spending is a third rail in budget negotiations.

If Republicans get their way, Democrats will make the next move as the parties try to strike a budget deal that would cover the seven remaining months of the fiscal year.

"The short-term funding measure introduced in the House today will give the American people another round of spending cuts as they wait for the Democrats who run Washington -- in the Senate and White House -- to determine a position other than the status quo," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. To top of page

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