Budget passed by House eases cuts disliked by both parties

The House passed the first bipartisan U.S. budget in four years yesterday, clearing the way for final Senate passage next week to ease $63 billion in spending cuts and avert another government shutdown.

That doesn’t mean lawmakers are excited about it.

The 332-94 vote in the House, where almost equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats voted for the plan, masked deep reluctance about the $1.01 trillion budget accord.

“This agreement is better than the alternative, but it misses a huge opportunity to do what the American people expect us to do, and that is to put this country on a fiscally sustainable path,” said Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.

The budget deal keeps in place about half of the automatic spending reductions known as sequestration in 2014, and about three-quarters of the planned cuts in 2015.

Neither party likes the cuts, which in January are slated to affect the Pentagon as well as domestic programs favored by Democrats. Neither party could find a way to erase them all in this budget compromise.

The Senate will begin considering the budget deal on Dec. 17 with a final vote later in the week, Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said today in a floor speech.

House Speaker John Boehner summed up the better-than- nothing opinion of many in Congress by saying simply, “It’s progress.”

‘Common Ground’

“It’s doing what the American people expect us to do,” which is to “stick to our principles but find common ground,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a speech before the vote.

The compromise budget was crafted by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of a special bipartisan panel. President Barack Obama said he’ll sign the final measure.

“If we, in fact, can get this budget deal completed and out of the Senate, we can get away, for the first time in a couple of years, from the constant brinkmanship and crisis governance that we’ve seen up on Capitol Hill,” Obama said today at the White House.

The agreement’s main accomplishments are to relieve $40 billion in cuts in 2014 and about $20 billion in 2015 and cushion the military from a $19 billion reduction starting next month. The measure includes $23 billion in deficit reduction.

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