WASHINGTON (TIP): A compromise federal budget plan that would remove the threat of a government shutdown for two years won easy approval Thursday, December 12, from the Republicancontrolled U.S. House. The deal worked out by House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray passed on a 332-94 vote and now goes to the Democratic-led Senate, which is expected to approve it next week in a very close vote. It represented rare convergence between the two parties on government spending after two years of bitter debate and political brinksmanship that included the 16-day shutdown in October. President Barack Obama hailed the agreement as a sign of rare bipartisan cooperation in the strife-filled US legislature.
“It’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done,” the president said shortly after the deal was announced. The agreement’s main brokers, Democratic Senator Patty Murry and House Republican Paul Ryan, said it sets the new annual budget caps for 2014 and 2015 at just over $1 trillion — slightly higher than current levels — and at least partially repeals the automatic, widely loathed budget cuts known as “sequestration.” “I see this agreement as a step in the right direction,” Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and chairman of the House Budget Committee, told reporters, noting that the deal does not raise taxes on Americans. “We have broken through the gridlock and reached a bipartisan budget compromise that will prevent a government shutdown in January,” added Murray, the Senate’s top budget chief, who said she and Ryan set aside their political differences to reach a compromise over weeks of negotiations.
“We agree that our country needs some certainty and we need to show that we can work together,” she added. House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged the measure amounted to only a small step toward the GOP goal of deficit reduction and balancing the budget, but he rejected opposition by some conservatives in his caucus as well as outside groups on the political right. “Is it perfect? Does it go far enough? No, not at all,” Boehner said in urging his colleagues to back the plan, noting it resulted from “doing what the American people expect us to do — coming together and finding common ground.” Ryan noted that Washington politicians have “been at each other’s throats for a long time” over budget issues, and Republicans must first win some elections in order to get all the deficit reduction and spending cuts they want. Democrats also hailed the budget proposal as a “small positive step forward,” in the words of Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
He and other Democrats called for Congress to also extend long-term unemployment benefits for more than 1 million Americans set to expire after Christmas, but their support for the budget plan showed they dropped any demand to link the issues in Thursday’s vote. In the House vote, 169 Republicans voted for the spending plan while 62 opposed it, with 163 Democrats in favor and 32 against. While most Republicans supported the plan, Boehner needed help from Democrats to get the 217-vote threshold needed for passage. Top GOP Senate aides said they expect the budget to pass the Senate but it could be by a razor thin margin. This could also change if momentum against the bill grows. GOP conservatives including Ted Cruz of Texas, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they will oppose the measure, which would need some Republican support for Democrats to overcome an expected filibuster.