CAPITOL HILL —
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to fund the federal government for two years, avoiding the threat of another government shutdown like the one in October. The vote was 332 to 94. It was a busy day on Capitol Hill, as the House worked to finish its business and recess for the year.
After two years of bitter wrangling and a government shutdown, the House passed a bill that will fund federal operations at about $1 trillion annually for the next two years. It partially replaces unpopular across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester.
A number of leading lawmakers praised the bipartisan agreement as a breakthrough in finding common ground at a time of divided government.
“We have successes here today; hard-fought successes on behalf of the American people, not frivolous things," said Republican Representative Rob Woodall.
Senate Democrat Dick Durbin called on his colleagues to quickly pass the bill.
“House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, vote for this," he said. "Let’s move, let’s govern, let’s not shut down this government again."
The Senate is likely to pass the bill easily next week and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.
There was, however, opposition and some fiery rhetoric. House Democrats pushed to get the House to vote to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
Democrat James McGovern called on Republican leaders in the House to, as he said, “have a heart.”
“After they have opened up all their presents and wished everybody a Merry Christmas, and had a wonderful dinner, on December 28, 1.3 million of our fellow citizens will be cut off totally," he said.
Republicans say they want an unemployment insurance measure to be worked out with the president and the Senate.
Some fiscally conservative Tea Party groups and lawmakers criticized the deal, calling it a “sell-out” because it does not reduce the budget deficit as much as they would like. Republican House Speaker John Boehner angrily responded to outside conservative groups for the second day in a row.
“Well, frankly, I think they are misleading their followers; I think they are pushing our members in places they don’t want to be, and frankly I just think that they have lost all credibility," said Boehner.
Boehner blamed those groups for pushing Republican lawmakers into causing the government shutdown in October to try to stop the president’s health care reform. That has caused a backlash among the public.