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Obama Will Sign Spending Bill Despite Earmarks

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will break a campaign pledge and sign a budget bill laden with millions in lawmakers' pet projects, administration officials said.

Administration budget chief Peter Orszag and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel both downplayed the $410 billion spending bill and signaled Obama would hold his nose and sign it. Orszag said: "We want to just move on. Let's get this bill done, get it into law and move forward.

Said Emanuel: "That's last year's business."

The House last week passed the measure that would keep the government running through Sept. 30, when the federal budget year ends. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, identified almost 8,600 specially sponsored projects totaling $7.7 billion; Democrats say the number is $3.8 billion.

Either way, it is far more than Obama promised as a candidate. He refused "earmarks" for the economic stimulus package he championed and a children's health bill.

He similiarly pledged to reject tailored budget requests that let lawmakers send money to their home states. Orszag said Obama would move ahead and overlook the time-tested tradition that lets officials divert millions at a time to pet projects.

"We want to make sure that earmarks are reduced and they're also transparent. We're going to work with the Congress on a set of reforms to achieve those," said Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Obama's top hands assigned responsibility to their predecessors and President George W. Bush.

Blaming Bush-era proposals for deficits, Obama wanted to set up his own budget that would start Oct. 1, which he proposed last week with a bold goal of cutting the deficit by half within his four-year term.

"First, this is a $1.7 trillion deficit he inherited. Let's be clear about that. We inherited this deficit and we inherited $4 trillion of new debt," Emanuel said. "That is the facts."

Facts, aides said, would be the cornerstone of the administration's public relations push. Officials faced a tough haul, even as Orszag and others said the proposal would raise taxes on wealthy Americans and increase energy costs.

Emanuel said energy costs are too low, anyway. U.S. car companies relied too long on gas-guzzling autos and failed to invest in alternative energy vehicles, he said. The time for new auto fuels is now, he contended.

"They never invested in both alternative energy cars. They got dependent on big gas guzzlers. ...They have a health care cost structure that's outdated," Emanuel said, repeating the administration's premise that health costs must come under control or else risk breaking all other pieces of the budget.

Republicans were not persuaded. Rep. Eric Cantor, their No. 2 in the House, said Obama was failing on his promises.

"Listen, I mean, the president was elected by the people of this country to institute change in Washington and to finally demand a federal government that is accountable to the people," he said. "The fact that there are 9,000 earmarks in this bill and the fact that the vetting process just doesn't take place the way it should, we ought to stand up and draw the line right now and stop the waste."

Orszag and Cantor appeared on ABC's "This Week." Emanuel spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation."