*Democrats say cuts jeopardize economic recovery
*Further extension will probably be needed
*Compromise possible on cutting overlapping programs
(New throughout with House passage, detail)
By Andy Sullivan and Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, March 1 The U.S. House of
Representatives on Tuesday voted to extend government funding
for two more weeks, a move that would avert a federal shutdown
but do nothing to resolve a bitter debate over the federal
Democrats who control the Senate said they would pass the
measure before Friday, when government funding is due to
expire. That would give lawmakers until March 18 to agree on
funding levels for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30.
Republicans have made spending cuts their top priority
after winning control of the House in November on a promise to
scale back government and trim a massive budget deficit.
"All of us are working to cut spending and to get the
federal government out of our pockets, off our backs, and out
of our lives," said Republican Representative John Culberson.
Democrats say the $61 billion in cuts that House
Republicans want this fiscal year would endanger the economic
recovery and throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work
at a time when the unemployment rate stands at 9 percent.
Two weeks will not be enough time to hammer out the stark
differences between the two parties, many Democrats say. That
would require another short-term extension.
"I'm afraid we're going to be back here doing this again,"
said Democratic Representative Norm Dicks.
Newly elected Republican conservatives, who have led the
push for deep spending cuts, may be reluctant to go along with
further temporary extensions.
Other fights loom even if lawmakers agree on spending for
this year. They must begin work soon on a budget for the next
fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, and will also have to hold a
vote in the coming months on increasing the government's
One possible area of compromise emerged when congressional
investigators released a report detailing hundreds of
overlapping government programs. The report by the Government
Accountability Office found 82 separate programs dedicated to
improving teacher quality and 56 programs devoted to increasing
Lawmakers from both parties said the report could help find
ways to cut spending while not compromising the government's
Beyond the yearly budget cycle, many experts warn that
Congress will have to tackle the growth of Medicare and other
popular benefit programs that are projected to eat up a growing
share of the $3.7 trillion annual federal budget in the years
Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, who has led efforts for
comprehensive budget reform, said the current spending fight
was missing the big picture.
"If ever there was an example of the disconnect of
Washington, DC from the reality of what we confront as a
nation, it's all this time and energy being spent on $4 billion
when what we've got to do is deal with a package in the range
of $4 trillion," Conrad said.
The stopgap funding measure, which passed the House by a
vote of 335 to 91, would cut $4 billion in education and
transportation programs that President Barack Obama also
It also would eliminate the pet projects known as
"earmarks" that Congress has renounced amid concerns about
The Senate will pass the measure by Thursday, Democratic
Leader Harry Reid said.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro;
Editing by Cynthia Osterman)