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Senate Democrats craft bill to avert budget cuts

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Democrats have prepared a plan to slice the Pentagon's budget by $3 billion a year in an attempt to avoid far steeper cuts that defense hawks warn would cripple the military.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hopes to stage a vote on the measure before $85 billion in automatic budget cuts start to take effect in March. The bill is expected to produce about $120 billion in deficit savings over the coming decade, enough to block the automatic cuts through the end of the calendar year.

But Republicans are likely to block the measure because it contains a 10-year, $47 billion tax increase known as the "Buffett Rule" that would require people with million-dollar incomes to pay a minimum 30 percent income tax. The rule is named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

The measure would also raise about $24 billion by cutting much-criticized direct payments to farmers in addition to $27 billion in Pentagon cuts. Interest savings would contribute most of the rest.

The measure hasn't been officially unveiled, but already is under assault from Republicans.

"We again find ourselves in sad and familiar territory," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Democrats sit on their hands until the last minute. Then they offer some gimmicky bill designed to fail."

Republicans vow that they won't accept tax revenues as part of any deal with President Barack Obama to shut off the so-called sequester, which would require across-the-board cuts of 5 percent to domestic programs and 8 percent to the Pentagon. The cuts, called a sequester in Washington-speak, are the result of the failure of the 2011 budget "supercommittee" to agree on a deficit-cutting pact.

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