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House overwhelmingly approves two-year budget plan on a bipartisan vote

 

The House approved a two-year spending plan on Thursday evening, in a strong bipartisan vote that underscored the desire by many lawmakers to avoid a repeat of the October budget showdown.

The bill was approved 332-94, over the objections of conservatives concerned it would increase spending in the short-term and liberals concerned it would not extend long-term jobless aid.

The bill now goes to the Senate. The House vote indicates the bill could be on a relatively clear path to the president’s desk, in sharp contrast to the protracted budget standoff in the fall which resulted in a partial government shutdown.

Lawmakers face a Jan. 15 deadline this time around to approve a spending plan. 

The bill was approved with more Republican that Democratic votes. House Speaker John Boehner was among those voting yes -- notable because the speaker often does not vote.

Among the 32 Democratic no's was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, reflecting a rare split in the Democratic leadership.

The final breakdown was 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats voting yes and 62 Republicans and 32 Democrats voting no.

The White House immediately issued a statement saying the bill's passage "marks an important moment of bipartisan cooperation and shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis."

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., one of the bill's chief negotiators, said it "will stop Washington's lurch from crisis to crisis." Rep. Patty Murray of Washington, the key negotiator on the Democratic side, echoed Ryan, saying, "we are now one step closer to a bipartisan budget that would prevent another crisis."

Ahead of the vote, Boehner sparred with the right flank of his party over the bill, produced out of weeks-long bipartisan negotiations. He specifically criticized conservative advocacy groups trying to pressure the rank-and-file to block the budget.

"Frankly, I think they're misleading their followers," Boehner said at a press conference. "I think they're pushing our members into places where they don't want to be. And frankly, I just think that they've lost all credibility." 

The comments reflected a newly aggressive approach by Boehner, in contrast to the more conciliatory tone he took during the last budget showdown. The speaker even took a shot at them for fueling the last battle. "You know, one of them, they pushed us into the fight to defund ObamaCare and shut down the government," he said. 

FreedomWorks, among the groups that oppose the current budget bill, shot back at the House speaker again on Thursday. 

"Speaker Boehner may not care about what fiscally conservative groups do, but grassroots Americans still care about what he's doing in Washington," FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement. "When it comes to 'credibility,' actions speak louder than words. And right now, it looks like the Speaker is leading the charge for spending increases and recruiting Democrat votes in the House to help get it done." 

House GOP leaders argue that the bipartisan plan is a good deal for conservatives, since they claim it will shave $23 billion off the deficit over the next decade. However, it also erases $65 billion in sequester cuts in the near-term, and conservative groups are worried the long-term savings might never materialize. 

With the White House supporting the measure, GOP aides betrayed no nervousness about its chances for passage in the Republican-controlled House. 

A Senate vote would likely wait until next week, and it was not yet clear whether Tea Party-aligned conservatives would require supporters to amass a 60-vote majority in order to pass it. 

Nobody was claiming that the pact was perfect. Some lawmakers said they were troubled by short-term increases in the deficit, $23.2 billion in 2014 and $18.2 billion the year after that. 

But the deal would put a dysfunctional Washington on track to prevent unappealing cuts to military readiness and weapons, as well as continued cuts to programs cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike, including health research, school aid, FBI salaries and border security. The cuts would be replaced with money from, among other things, higher airline security fees, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers or working-age military retirees, and premium increases on companies whose pension plans are insured by the federal government. 

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said that "much of the spending increase in this deal has been justified by increased fees and new revenue. In other words, it's a fee increase to fuel a spending increase, rather than reducing deficits." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

 

 

 

 

 

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