By Heidi Przybyla

U.S. budget negotiators are close to a deal to ease automatic spending cuts that congressional aides say could increase airline and other user fees instead of ending some corporate tax breaks and making federal workers contribute more to retirement plans.

Negotiators are “down to the last few items,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of a 29-member committee aiming to reach an agreement by Dec. 13 that sets federal spending levels for this year and next. Both parties are “careful to say they don’t have a deal,” Cole said.

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