In sharp contrast to the strife and infighting that led to the government shutdown, the House easily passed a bipartisan accord that sets spending levels for the next two years.
The budget deal, which passed 332-94, marks a key victory for Speaker John Boehner, who struggled mightily to contain the GOP’s right flank just weeks earlier. This time, 169 Republicans—the overwhelming majority of the caucus—voted for the bill. Only 62 GOP members voted against it.
The deal would reverse about one-third of sequestration’s automatic cuts for the next two years and reduces the deficit by $23 billion through higher fees and federal pension cuts, among other measures.
Thirty-two Democrats also voted against the bill, with many blasting the bill for failing to include an extension of federal unemployment insurance, which will expire at the end of December for 1.3 million jobless Americans. It was the last day the House was in session this year, leaving Democratic leaders resigned to revisiting the issue in early 2014.
“Embrace the suck,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told her caucus earlier Thursday. “We need to get this off the table, so we can go forward.”
The White House described the bill’s passage as a significant breakthrough. “This bill does not include everything the President called for. But it marks an important moment of bipartisan cooperation and shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis and both sides can work together to get things done,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, Boehner blasted the outside conservative groups that opposed the deal—the same advocates who originally pushed for the shutdown, which proved politically disastrous for Republicans.
“I think they’ve lost all credibility,” Boehner said at a press briefing before the vote. “They pushed us into the fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government…And the day before the government reopened, one of these groups said, ‘Well, we never thought it would work.’”
“Are you kidding me?” he exclaimed.
Many Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, say they oppose the bill. But it’s still expected to pass when it’s brought forward for a vote next week.
The budget deal establishes overall spending levels for the government, but the bill alone doesn’t fund the government. Congress needs to decide how it will dole out the money to different programs before January 15 to keep the government open.
The House also added a $8.7 billion provision that would adjust Medicare payments to providers for three months. Democrats objected to the move, arguing that Congress shouldn’t prioritize paying doctors over supporting unemployed Americans.