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Conservatives May Try To Derail Budget Deal

A week before Christmas, Democrats have finally produced a massive spending package that would seem to meet President Bush's demands.

But they've slipped in a handful of emergency spending items -- not to mention 600 pages of earmarks --that could cause conservatives to attempt a filibuster once the measure makes it to the Senate floor.

At least one prominent budget hawk in the Senate -- Jim DeMint of South Carolina -- has called the $500 billion package "unacceptable," but even if DeMint is joined by other Senate conservatives in an attempted filibuster, they may not have to votes to block the omnibus. It takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster, and there may well be enough GOP senators who want to get out of town for the year and strike a deal to pass the annual appropriations package.

On top of that, the White House is threatening to veto the measure if Iraq war money is not added. The House bill, as currently written, prohibits funding for Iraq but the Senate is likely to add Iraq money.

Democrats unveiled the bill on Sunday evening, and immediately highlighted all the cuts they made from their original proposals. House Democrats cut 800 grants from the National Institutes of Health, $1.4 billion in state and local policing grants, $1.1 billion in homeland security funding and $1.2 billion in education money.

"We have arrived at this point because the White House and their allies in the Senate have refused to respond to the American people’s cry for change in the last election," House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said. "If America wants new budget priorities, we are going to need a new president who will reflect those priorities."

Still, the fiscal conservatives who have held up the appropriations process in the past say it's not enough.

"Instead of passing a clean bill, Democrats have packed it full of controversial policy riders, wasteful earmarks, and budget gimmicks that add billions in additional domestic spending over the President's level," DeMint said.