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The House has passed legislation that would provide $7 billion in new loan guarantees for nuclear-power plant construction.

The money was approved as part of a $1.2 trillion spending bill that passed the House on Wednesday night.

The $7 billion in loan guarantees is just a fraction of the $36 billion that President Obama requested earlier this year. But Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute trade group, says the $7 billion “works in the short term.”

In February, the Obama administration awarded $8 billion in loan guarantees for Southern Co. to build a pair of reactors in Burke County, Ga.

SENATE

9/11 health bill fails in test vote

Senate Republicans have blocked a bill to aid people who got sick after exposure to dust from the World Trade Center’s collapse.

Supporters fell short Thursday of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill to provide as much as $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors.

Backers of the legislation see this lame-duck session of Congress as possibly its last chance. The bill has passed the House.

New York and New Jersey lawmakers have fought for years for the measure. Critics question its cost and whether the government could ensure the money would go only to people sickened by trade center dust.

Republican senators have promised not to consider any other bills until the Senate acts on funding the government and extending tax cuts.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama still trying to quit smoking

President Obama is still trying to kick the habit.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday that he hasn’t seen Mr. Obama smoke or seen evidence that the president has smoked a cigarette in about nine months. Mr. Gibbs says Mr. Obama has been working “extremely hard” to quit for good.

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