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The GOP-controlled House on Thursday passed a $42.3 billion budget for the government's homeland security efforts after a debate that demonstrated resistance for some of the spending cuts required under austere budget times.

The measure passed 231-188 after lawmakers eased cuts to popular grant programs for local fire departments and after GOP conservatives tried but failed in several attempts to add millions of dollars to a variety of border security initiatives.

It's the first of the 12 annual spending bills funding the day-to-day operations of federal agencies for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. It's also the first concrete step to implement the budget blueprint approved by House Republicans in April.

The homeland security measure bears a $1.1 billion cut of almost 3 percent from the spending levels for the ongoing budget year that were enacted in April in a compromise between House Republicans and President Barack Obama.

But far more stringent spending bills — they contain cuts to health research, student aid, food aid for low-income pregnant women and energy efficiency programs — will follow this summer.

Republicans focused the homeland security cuts on port and transit security grants, awards for high-risk cities, and grants to local fire departments to help them with salaries and equipment purchases, proposing to slash them by $2.1 billion below Obama's requests — cuts of more than half.

On Wednesday a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers restored $320 million in cuts to grants for fire departments by a sweeping 333-87 vote, but only by imposing an unrealistic cut on the agency's bureaucratic operations.


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