U.S. House approves $3 trillion FY09 budget

Thu Jun 5, 2008 1:07pm EDT

(Adds background, details)

WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) - The Democratic-controlled Congress on Thursday adopted a $3 trillion U.S. budget for next year as the House of Representatives put the finishing touches on a measure to eliminate deficits by 2012 while exceeding President George W. Bush's domestic spending request.

By a partisan vote of 214-210, the House approved the Democratic budget that sketches out spending priorities for the next five years -- through a new president's term.

The Senate approved an identical measure on Wednesday.

It will be up to that new president -- most likely Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama -- and the next Congress to tackle the huge problems this budget mostly ignores: long-term tax policy and controlling the growing costs of health and retirement benefits for the elderly.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat, said the budget "charts a new course. It returns the budget to balance, reaching a budget surplus of $22 billion in the year 2012 and staying in surplus through 2013."

He added that it also begins "undoing the damages done by the president's budget" by adding money for child health care and rejecting cuts to domestic programs such as law enforcement, education and energy aid to low-income families.

Besides setting broad goals for federal spending and taxes, this budget also would raise the government's debt limit to $10.615 trillion, from the current ceiling of $9.815 trillion.

Republicans, who boycotted this budget, tweaked Democrats, saying their plan adds significantly to the federal debt after years of chastising Republicans for doing so.

"We, with this budget, are going faster down the pathway of sending a crushing burden of debt and taxes on the next generation," said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the senior Republican on the budget panel. "Both parties have been responsible for not addressing these problems," Ryan added.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate passed slightly different budget blueprints for fiscal 2009 that starts Oct. 1. This compromise measure sketches out about $21 billion more in non-defense domestic spending than Bush requested for next year.

The budget blueprint is not signed into law. It gives guidance for lawmakers as they weigh a series of spending bills later in the year.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, editing by David Alexander)




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