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Stop-Gap Funding Bill Avoids Lab Cuts

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
          The House of Representatives approved a stop-gap funding bill Wednesday that sidesteps a battle over proposed budget reductions that could have forced job cuts at New Mexico's nuclear weapons labs.
        The bill is a response to congressional failure to complete a budget for the nuclear weapons work, and a wide range of other federal programs, before the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30. In lieu of a new budget for fiscal year 2009, the spending plan largely continues federal spending at 2008 levels.
        That is good news for Sandia and Los Alamos labs, according to Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. An earlier version of the budget passed by the House in June would have cut $360 million in nuclear spending at Los Alamos and Sandia, potentially costing more than 2,000 jobs in New Mexico. A counteroffer developed by a Senate committee in July would have replaced much of that money.
        By approving a "continuing resolution" to fund most federal operations at 2008 levels, the House action avoids a potentially bruising fight between the House and Senate over the House's proposed nuclear weapons cuts.
        "A CR puts off for today the divergent funding priorities between the Senate and House when it comes to our labs," Domenici said in a statement. "But stabilized FY2008 funding levels is acceptable when compared to alternatives that would impose arbitrary cuts to the labs' national security work."