House of Representatives passes bipartisan US budget compromise
House handily passes plan to ease cuts in spending and head off future shutdowns
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives has passed a compromise spending plan which will ease US federal spending cuts and has been designed to prevent future government shutdowns.
The legislation, backed by the White House, cleared on a vote of 332-94 on Thursday, with lopsided majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike voting in favour. Final passage is expected next week in the Senate.
The events gave a light coating of co-operation to the end of a bruising year of divided government - memorable for a partial government shutdown, flirtation with an unprecedented treasury default and gridlock on immigration, gun control and other items on President Barack Obama's second-term agenda.
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".
In the end, the debate 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 the autumn's politically damaging partial shutdown of some arms of government.
"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 their action of opposing legislation before the details were known.
The agreement would set overall spending levels for the current budget year and the one that begins on October 1, next year.
That straightforward action would probably eliminate the possibility of another government shutdown and reduce the opportunity for the periodic brinkmanship of the kind that has flourished in the current three-year era of divided government.