House OKs 2-year deal on budget

Automatic spending cuts, shutdown risks reduced

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) blasted conservative groups that criticized the bipartisan budget compromise without knowing its details.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) blasted conservative groups that criticized the bipartisan budget compromise without knowing its details.

WASHINGTON — A breakthrough budget deal that averts a government shutdown in January and blunts automatic spending cuts won passage in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, laying the groundwork for two years free of funding crises.

The legislation, cleared on a vote of 332-94, now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week despite the objections of conservative political groups that say the plan violates their goal of cutting government spending.

The deal makes no major dent in the U.S. deficit and does not address 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.

The vote was a victory for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), 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 divided chamber and that Republicans were capable of avoiding the brinkmanship that has marked the last three years.

“Is it perfect, does it go far enough? No, not at all,” Mr. Boehner said of the budget deal.

Mr. Boehner blasted conservative groups that tried to scuttle the budget deal.

He accused groups like Club for Growth, Heritage Action, and Americans for Prosperity of reflexively opposing a reasonable plan in an effort to raise their profiles and improve their fund-raising.

“Are you kidding me?” Mr. Boehner shouted, denouncing opposition to the budget accord. “There comes a point where some people step over the line. When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.”

By most assessments, the budget deal struck by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) is a modest plan to mitigate the impact of across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, that went into effect in March and to slightly lower the budget deficit over the next decade.

The legislation also would extend Medicare payment rates for three months, staving off a cut of more than 20 percent to health-care providers.

The measure would erase $63 billion in across-the-board cuts set for January and early 2015 on domestic and defense programs, leaving about $140 billion in reductions in place.

On the other side of the budget ledger, it projects savings totaling $85 billion over the coming decade, enough to show a deficit reduction of about $23 billion over the 10-year period.

The cuts would be replaced with savings generated from dozens of sources.

Among them are higher airline security fees, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers, and additional costs for corporations whose pensions are guaranteed by the federal government.

The measure also would slow the annual cost-of-living increase in benefits for military retirees under the age of 62.

Area Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), and Tim Walberg (R., Tipton) all voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) voted against it.

Miss Kaptur said she voted for the budget deal despite her concerns that the bill did not extend the Federal Emergency Unemployment Insurance.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Miss Kaptur said she felt obligated to support the measure because “members were trying to combat the shutdown madness that had taken over Washington,” by supporting this budget deal.

Miss Kaptur said she plans to continue to push for an extension of the jobless benefits when Congress returns from break in January.

The House also approved a defense measure that would strengthen protections for military victims of sexual assault and leave open the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The provisions to stem the growing number of sexual assault cases in the military are the most expansive of their kind in years.

They would include new rules that would prevent commanding officers from overturning sexual assault verdicts.