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WASHINGTON - George W. Bush is backing presumptive Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney.

The former president offered a four-word endorsement of Romney as the doors of his elevator were closing after a speech Tuesday in Washington. Bush said:

“I’m for Mitt Romney.’’

ABC News caught Bush after the speech, prompting his unscripted, but not surprising, endorsement.

Bush’s parents, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, endorsed Romney in March. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also publicly backed Romney.

Since leaving office in January 2009, George W. Bush has tried to avoid politics.

White House threatens to veto defense budget

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WASHINGTON - The White House threatened Tuesday to veto the House Armed Service Committee’s version of next year’s defense budget, arguing that the $642 billion measure adds billions to President Obama’s request and limits the military’s ability to adopt a new defense strategy.

In a seven-page statement, the Office of Management and Budget ticked off a list of objections to the spending blueprint. The statement came the day before the Republican-controlled House is to begin debate on the bill. House passage of the measure is expected on Friday.

The bill’s total is $8 billion more than Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer in a deficit-cutting deal. The bill outlines a base defense budget of $554 billion, including nuclear weapons spending, plus $88 billion for the war in Afghanistan and counterterrorism efforts.

Republicans added several provisions limiting the president’s ability to retire aircraft, ships, and a version of the Global Hawk drone. The legislation would restrict Obama’s ability to implement a new treaty with Russia to reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The legislation also calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast, even though the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the current array of defense sites is sufficient.

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Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that he supports the deficit-cutting agreement amount set last year.

Kerrey breezes to win Democratic Senate primary

OMAHA - Bob Kerrey easily beat three political unknowns Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination for his old job representing Nebraska in the US Senate.

Democrats are counting on Kerrey to help them retain a seat viewed as one of the Republicans’ best opportunities for a pickup, which would push them closer to a Senate majority.

GOP voters picked a state senator, Deb Fischer, as their nominee Tuesday. She was endorsed by two of the party’s conservative stars, Sarah Palin and Herman Cain.

The seat is being vacated by Democrat Ben Nelson, who succeeded Kerrey 12 years ago but isn’t seeking a third term.

Kerrey, also a former presidential candidate, will probably be considered the underdog in conservative Nebraska. But he has raised $1.2 million since entering the race in February.

Boehner welcomes more debate on debt limit

WASHINGTON - House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that when Congress raises the nation’s borrowing cap he will again insist on spending cuts and budget changes to offset the increase.

The Ohio Republican said he welcomes another debate on increasing the debt limit because it forces a Congress and White House plagued by gridlock to make difficult decisions. Boehner also said the GOP-controlled House will vote to extend Bush-era tax cuts and that the House will act next year on “broad-based tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and businesses while closing deductions, credits, and special carveouts.’’

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said the government will hit its borrowing cap later this year, but Treasury can use accounting maneuvers to buy time for the newly elected Congress to deal with the issue early next year.

About a year ago, Boehner made a similar promise, demanding spending cuts beyond the amount of increase in the debt limit, a stipulation that led to the budget reduction deal in August.