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GOP tells Obama to tone down attacks

No breakthroughs yet in closed-door meetings

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 7:55 p.m. MDT

The president declined to be pinned down on the fate of the Keystone Pipeline, which supporters hope to build to ship Canadian oil to the United States. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said Obama pledged only to make a decision before the end of the year on the project, which is opposed by environmentalists but supported by some labor unions.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., mentioned the Navajo Generating Station, a power plant in Page, Ariz., where the Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the facility's owner to spend $1.1 billion to upgrade emissions controls. Flake recently wrote that a separate federal agency recently said that even with the change, it couldn't guarantee there would be "any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon and other national parks and wilderness areas."

While Obama completed his closed-door round of meetings, the Senate slowly worked its way through a bill that locks in $85 billion in spending cuts through the end of the budget year while guaranteeing there won't be a government shutdown.

In a show of bipartisanship, leading senators in both parties agreed to provide flexibility for the departments of Commerce, State, Justice and Homeland Security in apportioning the spending cuts, just as the House did with the Pentagon in its version of the bill.

But there were limits to cooperation — most evidently as Republicans attacked a budget by Senate Democrats that relies on $1 trillion in higher taxes over a decade, makes relatively modest changes to Medicare and envisions deficits indefinitely into the future.

Because Democrats want to restore $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the same period — cuts imposed by Washington's failure to strike a broader budget pact — the blueprint authored by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington increases spending slightly when compared with current policies.

McConnell labeled the plan a "left-wing manifesto masquerading as a budget."

Democrats on Thursday evening pushed Murray's budget through the Budget Committee on a 12-10 party-line vote, setting up a clash on the Senate floor next week.

A rival plan is expected to come to the Republican-controlled House next week after its approval in committee Wednesday evening. Democrats were as harsh in criticizing it as Republicans were in condemning theirs. The GOP plan cuts $4.6 trillion and eliminates deficits over a decade without any tax increase.

Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Andrew Taylor, Henry C. Jackson and Jim Abrams contributed to this report.

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