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US Spending Debate Moves on to Next Phase

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the budget agreement, April 8, 2011
US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the budget agreement, April 8, 2011

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Sean Maroney

The months-long political debate on this year's U.S. government spending ended late Friday night with President Barack Obama and lawmakers agreeing on $38 billion in cuts.

But numerous officials in Washington say the latest fight between Republicans and Democrats was just a prelude to a series of potential skirmishes over government spending during the next six months.

Thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., Saturday for an annual event that almost did not happen this year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.



This main avenue in the nation's capital would have been empty, along with many U.S. government offices, had President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers not reached a last-minute budget agreement late Friday, averting a potential government shutdown.

During his weekly address Saturday, President Obama said the end result of what he called the "long and difficult negotiations" over the national budget was good news for the American people.

"It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform," said Obama.

But the stage is set for what will likely be equally spirited debates during the next six months over the country's debt ceiling and 2012 budget.

Obama's administration has requested a debt allowance higher than the current $14.3 trillion cap, but several Republican lawmakers said they will not vote to do that without cutting this year's spending even more.

The Republican-dominated House also is scheduled to vote next week on a plan that would sharply cut spending for next year, leading to $6.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

On Saturday, House Budget Committee Chairman, Republican lawmaker Paul Ryan, said the House's 2012 budget proposal is part of what America needs to get on what he called a "true path to prosperity."

He used his party's weekly address as a thinly veiled attack on Obama's recently announced plans to run for a second term as president.

"It is unconscionable to leave the next generation with a crushing burden of debt and a nation in decline," said Ryan.  "Washington's obsession with the next election has come at the expense of the next generation."

Both major political parties in the United States agree that they must cut government spending, but they differ sharply on what programs should go on the chopping block.  These policy differences were at the core of the months-long political debate on this year's spending.

Republicans generally favor spending cuts on social welfare programs, while Democrats usually seek to protect those provisions and instead limit tax breaks and certain programs for businesses.

Any political wrangling on these issues could be seen as posturing ahead of the 2012 presidential election, which analysts are predicting to be America's most expensive presidential campaign ever with candidates potentially spending more than $1 billion in total.

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