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Bush tax cut may be heading for compromise

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House and Senate budget negotiators plan to meet Wednesday afternoon to reconcile the major differences between their competing tax and spending blueprints for next year.

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"The two priorities have to find a commonality. That's what this negotiation is about," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, said after a meeting of the House GOP conference.

The Republican-controlled House passed a budget resolution that calls for $1.6 trillion in tax cuts over the next 10 years and set a spending increase of 4 percent for next year.

The Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, passed a smaller $1.2 trillion tax cut but gave an 8 percent boost to federal spending. After a Tuesday meeting with President Bush, Senate GOP leaders acknowledged they could not win support for a tax cut as large as the House version.

Hastert said he understands the "reality" in the Senate: "I hope, eventually, we'll get to $1.6 trillion somehow. Probably somewhere in between is where we're going to come out on this thing."

Although Bush has said he would not vary from the $1.6 trillion figure, in an interview Wednesday with CNN he refused to commit to a specific figure.

"My answer is, Let's get as much as possible for the American people," Bush said.

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said Wednesday's negotiation would be tough.

"I think it's going to be a tougher conference than any we've seen in the past. This budget shoots with real bullets," he said. "Every time they step it [the tax cut] up a dollar they've got to take a dollar out of education or health care or the environment, and it's going to be a very painful exercise."

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