Democrats Counter GOP Energy Cuts

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"Funding cuts are coming to renewable energy programs, climate research and U.S. EPA. The question is, by how much?"

Senate Democrats are seeking to protect energy and climate programs targeted by the House's aggressive budget cuts, a move that accelerates the chambers toward a clash over President Obama's key priorities and a possible government shutdown.

Yet even as the Senate established a defensive perimeter, its spending plan released Friday afternoon made it clear that funding cuts are coming to renewable energy programs, climate research and U.S. EPA. The question is, by how much?

Those answers will emerge from hard-nosed negotiations, which could begin in earnest this week now that both chambers have laid down a spending marker, according to analysts. The White House is leading those talks with House and Senate leaders as the stopgap spending measure passed last week inches toward its expiration next Friday.

The Senate's continuing resolution (CR) would strike $51 billion through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, as compared to Obama's 2011 budget request, Democrats say. That figure is much smaller than the House's plan to cut $100 billion.

"They're a long way off from finding agreement," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the anti-deficit group the Concord Coalition. "It's going to be much more difficult to avoid a shutdown by March 18."

The Senate bill rejects some of the House bill's 67 amendments, or "riders," as "purely political, meant to score points or placate supporters," the Senate Appropriations Committee said in a release.

It erases the House provision that would block EPA from using its budget to regulate greenhouse gases. It restores U.S. contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And it strikes the language forbidding Obama from hiring "czars" for climate change or green jobs or negotiators for global climate talks, such as Special Envoy Todd Stern.

Compromise appears unlikely.

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