updated 10/23/2007 9:17:50 PM ET 2007-10-24T01:17:50

Senate Democrats on Tuesday reversed President Bush’s cuts to education, health research and grants to local communities as they gird for Bush’s first-ever veto of a regular appropriations bill.

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By a 75-19 vote, the Senate gave bipartisan approval to a huge health and education spending bill that will likely be the first of the fiscal 2008 spending bills Democrats will ship to the White House to start a veto battle involving the budget for almost every domestic agency.

It promises to be a protracted battle, and Bush has a decided advantage, but Democrats have seized on the massive health and education measure as the best legislation with which to challenge Bush and his GOP allies in Congress. The measure totals over $600 billion and reverses a raft of cuts sought by Bush to health research, special education and funding for grants to community groups that help the poor, among others.

The confrontation with Bush over domestic programs — many of which are also popular with Republicans, as demonstrated by the margin of passage — will come on the heels of the bruising veto battle over a children’s health insurance bill. Programs funded by the health and education bill affect schoolchildren, workers, the poor and disabled, the unemployed and those with special needs or drug and alcohol problems, among others.

The Senate measure, which exceeds Bush’s budget by more than $10 billion, must be reconciled with a companion House measure passed in July before the legislation can be sent to Bush.

Battles over anti-crime funds, transportation and housing and perhaps the homeland security budget will follow.

“We are arguing about whether or not to invest further moneys in education, health care, (anti-crime grants), border security, port security, environmental protection,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “The president has asked for $196.4 billion of supplemental funding this year for Iraq and Afghanistan ... while he argues as to whether or not we ought to increase ... cancer research, diabetes research, heart/lung research for our citizens.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., countered, “The spending hike they are asking for in this one bill, if allowed to continue at the same rate, will cost the American taxpayer $120 billion over the next 10 years.”

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