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U.S. Senate passes budget agreement

Xinhua, May 6, 2015 Adjust font size:

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed a GOP joint House-Senate budget resolution for fiscal year 2016 with sharp spending cuts and rising military funding.

The first combined House-Senate budget in six years was approved with a vote of 51-48. All the 46 Senate Democrats and two Republicans, presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, voted against it.

The budget resolution will go to the White House for the president's signature, but will be used as a framework for the Congress appropriators to set government spending levels in 12 separate appropriation bills, which will be sent to the White House for signing later this year.

It also serves as a Republican fiscal policy vision that will influence 2016 election campaigns.

The resolution calls for balancing the budget in 10 years by cutting spending on the social safety net, education, and other domestic programs by 5.3 trillion U.S. dollars.

The budget sticks to the spending caps, known as sequestration, for both the Defense Department and domestic programs, but Republicans are seeking a way around the limits by adding billions of dollars to an off-budget "war fund" to boost the defense spending.

Congress Democrats have reiterated that they would only support a budget that locks in sequestration or one that increases funding both for the defense and domestic programs.

The budget's passage also unlocks an important procedural tool known as reconciliation, which allows legislation to pass both chambers with a simple majority vote. Most bills in the Senate require 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles, and Republicans control 54 seats.

Republican lawmakers might use the reconciliation tool to repeal parts of President Barack Obama's health care law. Endi