Washington (AFP) – House lawmakers on Thursday resoundingly approved a two-year budget deal that repeals billions of dollars in painful automatic cuts and crucially avoids the prospect of a U.S. government shutdown next year.
The agreement hammered out between top Democratic and Republican negotiators is seen as a chance to end the brutal cycle of fiscal crises that have plagued Washington in recent years.
The legislation, which passed 332-94 with sweeping bipartisan support, sets discretionary spending caps at $1.012 trillion for 2014 and $1.014 trillion for 2015, and rolls back several arbitrary cuts — known as sequestration — that were to hit the Pentagon and domestic departments on January 1.
It also reduces the deficit by some $23 billion — without raising taxes — by trimming waste and hiking some fees, including those imposed on air travelers.
Chief House budget negotiator Paul Ryan, last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee, sounded relieved that the constant budgetary brawling might be held at bay until 2015.
“We’ve been at each other’s throats for a long time,” Ryan conceded.
“I think it’s about time, for once in a long time, we find common ground and agree, and that is what this bill does.”
The White House quickly hailed Thursday’s bipartisan vote as “a positive step forward for the nation and our economy.”
But the deal, negotiated by Ryan and Senate Democrat Patty Murray, notably does not address the debt ceiling, which will reach its limit in February.
In its final act of the year, the chamber also passed a massive defense authorization bill that lays out Pentagon spending for 2014, raises military wages by one percent, and also sets new policies for Guantanamo which ease the transferring of detainees back to their home countries.
Both bills now head to the Senate for votes likely next week, before it too adjourns for the year-end holiday.
Some Senate Republicans, including Ted Cruz, have already signaled they will oppose the deal, saying sequestration imposed painful but necessary cuts to help rein in runaway Washington spending.
“This proposal undoes the sequester’s modest reforms and pushes us two steps back, deeper into debt,” Cruz said in a statement.