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US House passes spending bill with dramatic cuts, but Radio and TV Marti survive

The GOP-led House voted early today to eliminate dozens of federal programs and offices, slashing agency budgets to reach $61 billion in savings.

The cuts include job training and employment grants, community health centers, environmental regulations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and more.

But the spending plan doesn't touch the U.S. radio and TV broadcasts to Cuba, known as Radio and TV Marti. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, had sought to strip $30 million to silence the broadcasts that critics say are scarcely watched or heard in Cuba. So did Rep. Betty McCollum, D-MN.

South Florida Republicans David Rivera, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart teamed up with Broward Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Albio Sires, D-N.J., to thwart Flake.

Rivera said he lobbied fellow freshmen, and sent a letter to colleagues, contrasting Cuba with Egypt: "After 52 years of a totalitarian communist dictatorship in Cuba, now is not the moment to give the Castro regime a unilateral concession such as the elimination of American broadcasts promoting freedom and democracy."