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Agreement near on $1 trillion spending bill

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 1:46 p.m. MST

Popular education initiatives for special-needs children and disadvantaged schools were basically frozen and Obama's cherished "Race to the Top" initiative, which provides grants to better-performing schools, would absorb more than a 20 percent cut.

Environmentalists scored clear wins in stopping virtually every significant GOP initiative to roll back Environmental Protection Agency rules. Most importantly, industry forces seeking to block new greenhouse gas and clean air rules, as well as a new clean water regulation opposed by mountaintop removal mining interests, were denied. But Republicans succeeded in blocking new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and won delays to a new Labor Department rule requiring a reduction of coal dust responsible for black lung disease.

Drafted behind closed doors, the proposed bill would provide $115 billion for overseas security operations in Afghanistan and Iraq but give the Pentagon just a 1 percent boost in annual spending not directly related to the wars, though creative accounting such as mixing war funds with the core Defense Department budget is allowing billions of dollars more into Pentagon coffers.

The Environmental Protection Agency's budget would be cut by 3.5 percent. Foreign aid spending would drop and House lawmakers would absorb a 6 percent cut to their office budgets.

And with tensions plain in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, counterinsurgency aid for Pakistan would be cut to $850 million from Obama's $1.1 billion request. All told, $11.2 billion in emergency foreign aid funding would be provided for counterterrorism, humanitarian aid and training of Iraqi security forces, among other anti-terror activities.

The measure generally consists of relatively small adjustments to thousands of individual programs. Agencies like the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will get a boost within the Homeland Security Department, while GOP defense hawks won additional funding to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. The troubled, over-budget, next-generation F-35 fighter plane program would be largely protected.

Social conservatives won a ban on government-funded abortions in Washington, D.C., and restored a longstanding ban on funding for needle exchange programs used to prevent the spread of HIV. But efforts to take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood failed, as expected.

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