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GOP-led panel kicks off budget debate

Andrew Taylor, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans on a key House panel are rallying behind a GOP budget plan to sharply cut federal health care spending and safety-net programs like food stamps and welfare to wrestle trillion dollar-plus budget deficits under control.

Republicans praised the plan for taking on deficits that threaten to swamp the economy if left unchecked. Democrats on the panel assaulted the plan for awarding big tax cuts for the wealthy while forcing seniors to pay a far larger share of their health care costs.

A vote is expected Wednesday night.

The GOP plan is nonbinding but calls for repealing President Barack Obama's health care plan while transforming Medicare into a voucherlike system in which the government subsidizes purchases of health insurance on the private market.