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Republicans to vote on balanced budget in April

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) addresses a news conference at the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Wa
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) addresses a news conference at the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Wa

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to vote in April on a budget plan that sticks to 2015 spending levels but reaches balance in 10 years, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Friday.

Cantor, in a memo to lawmakers, said the plan from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will be part of his legislative agenda in the next three weeks before a mid-April Easter recess.

Ryan is expected to start the process of drafting his fiscal 2015 budget resolution next Tuesday, when the House Budget Committee he chairs gathers suggestions from House members in a special hearing.

Republicans have complained that President Barack Obama's budget request proposed discretionary spending levels that were above those set in a two-year budget deal negotiated last year between Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

While Obama's plan offered ways to offset the increased spending, some Republican lawmakers have said it was important to stick to the Ryan-Murray agreement.

"While the president's budget blows past the spending limit previously agreed to, the House Republican budget, under the leadership of Chairman Paul Ryan, will adhere to the agreed upon spending limits and balance in ten years," Cantor said in the memo to House Republicans.

Ryan's Republican budget last year reached balance in 10 years largely through deep cuts to social programs, including the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor. It aimed to shield the military from automatic "sequester" spending cuts, and maintained Ryan's controversial plan to effectively convert the Medicare program for the elderly into a voucher for seniors to purchase private insurance, a plan that reaps savings further in the future.

Cantor's memo appeared to allow for a possible shift of funds from domestic programs to defense spending. Following Russia's moves to occupy and annex Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, pressure from Republican lawmakers to cancel more of the defense spending cuts is likely to increase.

His memo did not mention anything about maintaining the current split between defense and domestic discretionary spending, a provision Democrats see as critical to passage of the normal spending bills needed to keep the government agencies operating after October 1.

(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Prudence Crowther)

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