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Boehner warns Senate Democrats on government funding bill

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday warned Senate Democrats against making big changes to a House-passed government funding measure, or Republicans may strip the flexibility it gives for applying military spending cuts.

The Republican-controlled House on Wednesday passed a stop-gap bill to keep government agencies and programs, including defense, funded through September 30, largely with Democratic support. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to vote on similar legislation next week.

The House bill adds some flexibility for the Pentagon that helps it deal with its $46 billion share of $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year that ends on September 30.

Senate Democrats have complained the House bill gave no such flexibility to domestic programs and have said they would remedy that in their bill.

They have also criticized the House bill for making no effort to replace the across-the-board cuts under the so-called "sequester" that were imposed after the White House and Congress failed to agree to an alternative plan to reduce deficits.

New funding legislation, called a "continuing resolution," to keep money flowing to agencies is needed by March 27 to avoid a broad government shutdown.

"If Senate Democrats try to load up this bill with extraneous provisions and partisan riders, we will be prepared to move a clean continuing resolution through the end of the year," Boehner told a news conference.

"I don't want to do that, I don't think that would help our troops, so I would urge Democrat leaders in the Senate to not get greedy and get carried away and try to put forward the possibility of a government shutdown."

Boehner also said he would continue to demand at least $1 of spending cuts for every dollar of debt limit increase when the borrowing cap must next be raised, likely during the summer.

Both the House and Senate are expected to unveil dueling budget plans that reflect deeply divided Republican and Democratic priorities in taming the $16.7 trillion federal debt.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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