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Oct 1, 4:25 PM EDT

Senate Democrats block veterans funding bill as budget talks loom

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats on Thursday blocked the Senate from turning to a $78 billion spending measure for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military base construction. They and the White House argue that it's part of an overall GOP budget framework that shortchanges spending on other domestic programs.

The 50-44 vote on the measure fell shy of the 60 required to overcome a filibuster and came a day after Congress voted to forestall a partial government shutdown and keep Cabinet agency doors open through Dec. 11, buying time to try to reach a budget and spending pact.

The White House has issued blanket veto threats against every spending bill, saying they shortchange domestic programs while exempting the Pentagon from the return of automatic spending curbs that would otherwise freeze its budget. Republicans note that many Democrats supported the bills when they were considered by the Appropriations Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that negotiation on a potential budget pact that would increase tight budget limits for the Pentagon and domestic agencies are still in the very early stages.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the nascent talks have "moved a little bit in the last few days."

Reid said McConnell had sought to largely cut congressional Democrats out of the talks. But Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said they were confident that wouldn't happen since Democratic support will be needed to pass any agreement.

"Republicans need our votes," Reid said.

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