Deal to quell budget wars passes US House
Reuters and APWASHINGTON -- A breakthrough budget deal that avoids a government shutdown in January and blunts automatic spending cuts easily won passage in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, laying the groundwork for two years free of funding crises.
December 14, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The 332-94 bipartisan vote sends the measure to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week despite the objections of conservative political groups that say it violates their core goal of cutting government spending.
The modest deal makes no major dent in the U.S. deficit and does not deal with the nation's borrowing authority, which could provoke a battle when it needs to be increased by Congress in late February or early in the spring.
The deal sets spending levels for two years, a significant break from the recent pattern of short-term funding bills that require extension every few months, always under the threat of a government shutdown like the 16 day closure in October.
The vote was a victory for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who has been repeatedly rebuked by the conservative, tea party wing of his caucus. This time, however, he demonstrated he could steer a budget compromise through the deeply divided chamber and that Republicans were capable of avoiding the brinkmanship that has marked the past three years.
“Is it perfect, does it go far enough? No, not at all,” Boehner said of the budget deal during a daylong House debate.
“It's going to take a lot more work to get our arms around our debt and our deficit, but this budget is a positive, positive step in that direction,” he added.
U.S. President Barack Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, hailed the vote, saying it “shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis and both sides can work together to get things done.”
'I think they're misleading their followers'
In the end, the debate in the House was tame by comparison with House Speaker John Boehner's criticism of conservative tea party-aligned groups that campaigned for the measure's defeat.
“I think they're misleading their followers,” the Republican speaker said of the groups, whom he pointedly also blamed for last fall's politically damaging partial government shutdown. “I think they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to be. And frankly, I just think that they've lost all credibility” by opposing legislation before the details are known.
He mentioned no organizations by name, although it appeared he was referring to Heritage Action and Club for Growth, both of which have sought to push the House further to the right than the Republican leadership has been willing to go.
The budget measure won a strong majority of House Republicans and split the tea party activists that have made Boehner's three years as Speaker so challenging. Some of the House's most conservative members, such as Louisiana's John Fleming and Blake Farenthold of Texas, voted yes.
The 62 Republican “no” votes, out of 232, included retiring tea party firebrand Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Justin Amash of Michigan, who regularly opposes Boehner.
The Murray-Ryan pact approved on Thursday does nothing to stem the worrisome growth of the US$17 trillion federal debt, but it locks in spending levels for two fiscal years, eliminating the threat of another federal shutdown until Oct. 1, 2015.
By allowing a US$63 billion increase in spending on federal agencies and discretionary programs over two years in exchange for other budget savings, it reduces the harmful effects of the across-the board sequester cuts that have hit every government program from medical research to military weapons development.