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NHTSA said it paid out $2.853 billion in claims, and had figured its administrative costs at $100 million, but it left the remaining money as a cushion.

Last week, Senate Democrats also proposed dipping into Recovery Act money to pay for part of a bill to extend tax breaks and other parts of the stimulus.

Senate Democrats said the move showed how far they were reaching to try to win Republican support. But the overture failed, as Republicans, joined by one Democrat, successfully filibustered the measure.

Still, the proposal is coming back to haunt Democrats.

On Wednesday, Sen George V. Voinovich, an Ohio Republican who often votes with Democrats to spend money to help the unemployed, said he asked them to use the stimulus cuts to pay for yet another extension of unemployment benefits. Democratic leaders refused.

“That just reduces the stimulus to the American economy,” said Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.