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House votes to boost homeland security spending

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $39 billion Department of Homeland Security spending bill for next fiscal year that would boost its funding by nearly $1 billion, shifting deeper cuts into other domestic agencies.

The measure passed on a 245-182 vote largely along party lines in the Republican-controlled chamber. It faces a veto threat from President Barack Obama, who considers House Republicans' $967 billion limit for next fiscal year on spending controlled by Congress to be too low.

In the Senate, led by Democrats, members of the Appropriations Committee are writing spending bills to a $1.058 trillion level that assumes replacement in the next fiscal year of the automatic cuts required under the sequester that went into effect on March 1. The new fiscal year starts on October 1.

The House Homeland Security bill would provide a $981 million increase above the current sequestration levels, but adoption in the Senate is unlikely.

The White House budget office this week said it would recommend that Obama veto all of the House spending bills for the new fiscal year unless they are passed in the context of a broader budget deal that does not contain "draconian" budget cuts for domestic agencies.

The dispute over government agency funding levels threatens to leave the government without spending bills in place for the start of the new fiscal year. If Congress fails to pass spending legislation or enact a stop-gap funding measure by that date, much of the government would have to shut down, a step that could roil financial markets and anger the public.

House Speaker John Boehner accused Obama of making a "reckless" threat to shut down the government unless Democrats get their way in a budget deal, and sent Obama a letter on Thursday urging him to rescind the veto threat.

"In short, the president said give him higher taxes and higher spending or we'll shut down the government. I think that's reckless," Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters following the vote.

The House on Tuesday passed its first spending bill for fiscal 2014, a $73 billion measure to fund military construction projects and the Veterans Administration, with overwhelming bipartisan support, 421-4.

But the Homeland Security bill won far less support from Democrats, with only 25 in favor and 172 against. Ten Republicans voted against the measure.

Apart from the funding levels, Democrats opposed a Republican amendment to block the implementation of Obama's executive order that aims to protect the foreign born children of illegal immigrants from deportation.

The amendment would bar the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from focusing on deporting criminals while bypassing the estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Critics said Obama's order was an attempt to grant amnesty without congressional authority.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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