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Senate Democrats, GOP To Stage Votes On Rival Cuts

Democrats are sure to vote the GOP measure down. Both the House and the Senate are set to send their members home Thursday afternoon, even as the deadline to avoid the cuts looms the next day. Though bound to fail, the rival votes will allow both sides to claim they tried to address the cuts even as they leave them in place and exit Washington for a long weekend.

Obama on Wednesday summoned top congressional leaders for a White House meeting on Friday. Given longstanding, intractable differences over Obama's insistence that new tax revenues help replace the cuts, the meeting was not expected to produce a breakthrough.

Another topic for Friday's discussion is how to avoid Washington's next crisis, which threatens a government shutdown after March 27, when a six-month spending bill enacted last year expires.

Republicans are planning for a vote next week on a bill to fund the day-to-day operations of the government through the Sept. 30 end of the 2013 fiscal year, while keeping in place the $85 billion in automatic cuts.

The need to keep the government's doors open and lights on â¿¿ or else suffer the first government shutdown since 1996 â¿¿ requires the GOP-dominated House and the Democratic-controlled Senate to agree. Right now they hardly see eye to eye.

The House GOP plan, unveiled to the rank and file Wednesday, would award the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department with their line-by-line budgets, for a more-targeted rather than indiscriminate batch of military cuts.

But it would deny domestic agencies the same treatment, which has whipped up opposition from veteran Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee. Domestic agencies would see their budgets frozen, which would mean no money for new initiatives such as cybersecurity or for routine increases for programs such as low-income housing.

"We're not going to do that," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "Of course not."

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