* Republicans vote to block Internet, EPA rules
* Republicans take aim at Planned Parenthood
* Social Security says it may furlough workers
(Adds new material throughout)
By Richard Cowan and Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 The Republican-controlled
U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday was poised to approve
deep spending cuts for this year, setting the stage for a
battle with the Democratic-run Senate that could lead to a
The House debated the spending measure, which cuts some
$61.5 billion from current levels, well into the night
Thursday. The House was expected to vote on passage of the bill
on Friday, sending it to the Senate.
President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in the
Senate are likely to reject many of the cuts, which are being
pushed by Republicans associated with the conservative Tea
Party movement who were elected in November.
The two sides have until March 4 to cut a deal. That's when
a temporary funding measure expires. Failure to reach agreement
means lawmakers will either have to pass another stopgap
spending bill or allow the government to shut down -- something
leaders from both parties claim they want to avoid.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said on Thursday
the House would not consider another stopgap measure without
spending cuts from current levels. The legislation would fund
the government through September when the current fiscal year
"When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips: We
are going to cut spending," Boehner said.
Obama has outlined his own plan for less severe spending
cuts in 2012, and has warned that tightening the belt too much
too soon could harm the slow economic recovery.
The House considered a number of amendments and approved a
Republican-backed measure overturning proposed rules barring
Internet service providers from blocking legal content.
The House debated into the night on a measure that would
bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides a
number of health services for women, including abortion.
The House also voted to block the Environmental Protection
Agency from issuing rules to limit mercury and other toxic
emissions from cement plants.
Before it completed the bill, the House was also expected
to consider an amendment to block funding for Obama's
healthcare overhaul, a measure certain to be rejected by the
Senate, which has already voted against a Republican bid to
repeal the year-old law.
Conservative Republicans are pushing an amendment to give
the Treasury Department the ability to avoid a debt default if
U.S. borrowing authority runs out, highlighting possible dire
consequences of political gridlock over government spending.
The proposal has been described by Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner as "unworkable" and opponents in the House
might use a procedural maneuver to kill the measure.
Congress must vote sometime in the next several weeks to
raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling so the government can
continue to pay its bills and creditors, which include China
and other foreign countries.
The bill also includes spending cuts for the Social
Security Administration that Democrats say will slow processing
for retirement, survivor and disability claims. The agency said
it may be forced to temporarily lay off workers and sent a
notice of possible furloughs to the employees' union on
Democrats say they also want to begin shrinking a deficit
that is projected to be around $1.65 trillion this year,
equivalent to 10.9 percent of the economy. As a result,
Democratic senators in coming weeks are likely to write their
version of a spending bill for this year that cuts funds, but
not as steeply as the House.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Donna Smith; editing by
Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech)