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US talks to ease spending cuts and avert shutdown

WASHINGTON -- U.S. budget negotiators were down to the final, most difficult items in a two-year deal to avoid another federal shutdown next month and ease some across-the-board spending cuts set to hit military and domestic programs, congressional aides said on Thursday.

The small-scale agreement being negotiated by Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Republican Representative Paul Ryan would lead to less than US$100 billion in new savings, aides familiar with the talks said.

The savings would replace some of the cuts that went into effect automatically as part of the budget “sequestration” earlier this year, and would provide a small amount of additional deficit reduction, they said.

The deal being negotiated would set spending on discretionary programs ranging from the military to national parks for fiscal 2014 and 2015 at around US$1 trillion each year. Without action, such spending would be automatically cut to US$967 billion in 2014, the lowest level in a decade.

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