Democrats controlling the House and Senate are on track to give President Barack Obama a key victory by adopting slightly pared-back versions of his $3.6 trillion budget.
Passage of the companion plans, expected today, would provide the young administration with a symbolic boost, even though the budget blueprints provide little guidance on how to craft subsequent Obama initiatives to reshape the U.S. healthcare system or combat global warming.
House Democrats are pressing a plan to make it easier to use "fast-track" rules to expedite passage of healthcare legislation backed by Obama, even as their GOP rivals in the Senate won a key vote Wednesday emphatically rejecting such an approach on global warming.
The most contentious question facing Democratic negotiators responsible for reconciling the differing House and Senate versions is whether to use the measures as a precursor to advancing healthcare legislation under rules that would allow the compromise bill to pass the Senate by a simple majority after just 20 hours of debate.
In the House, Republicans unveiled a budget plan that gradually would eliminate the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program, offering a starkand politically problematicalternative to blueprints from Obama and his Democratic allies.
The plan would have future Medicare beneficiariespeople 54 and youngerenroll in private health insurance plans and receive a subsidy on their premiums. Benefits would not be changed for people in the program or those 55 or older.
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