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House passes two-year federal budget to raise spending, borrowing authority

Seventy-nine Republicans joined 187 Democrats in voting for the budget deal, which would push any potential fiscal fights until at least March 2017.

By
Doug G. Ware
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., on Wednesday voted in favor of a two-year federal budget proposal that would boost spending by $80 billion in 2016 and 2017 and increase the government's borrowing authority until March 2017. If passed by the Senate, which is expected to act on the legislation this week, the bill would also postpone any potential fiscal fighting until after a new president and Congress are elected next year. Photo by Pete Marovich / UPI
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., on Wednesday voted in favor of a two-year federal budget proposal that would boost spending by $80 billion in 2016 and 2017 and increase the government's borrowing authority until March 2017. If passed by the Senate, which is expected to act on the legislation this week, the bill would also postpone any potential fiscal fighting until after a new president and Congress are elected next year. Photo by Pete Marovich / UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a proposed two-year budget that will add billions to federal spending caps and raise the debt ceiling -- and make it so the government can't have any more fiscal fights until 2017.

The House passed the budget bill by a vote of 266-to-167 Wednesday afternoon -- more than enough to send the legislation to the Senate.

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Now it is up to Senate lawmakers to get the budget proposal to President Barack Obama's desk, which could happen before the end of the week. Senate leaders said they want to act quickly -- particularly because the Treasury Department cites a Nov. 3 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., one of the proposal's architects, promised to immediately address the plan.

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"It's not perfect. Far from it," McConnell said in a statement Wednesday. "But here's what we know. It's offset with other cuts and savings. It would enact the most significant reform to Social Security since 1983, resulting in $168 billion in long-term savings.

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"I urge colleagues to consider these important issues as they continue to examine the agreement."

Under the House's proposal, federal spending caps for military and nonmilitary spending will be raised by $80 billion over the next two years. It also calls for long-term cuts to some domestic programs like Medicare and Social Security to offset the increases.

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Perhaps the biggest motivation for passing the budget bill is to eliminate the possibility of any further showdowns between Obama and Congress, which have threatened multiple government shutdowns in the last two years.

There was still some contention over the matter Wednesday, though. More than half of House Republicans defied party leaders and voted against the budget proposal -- concerned that greater government spending and more borrowing authority is not in the country's best interests.

"The latest budget deal continues the sad pattern of the past five years: a fiscal monstrosity gets negotiated in secret with Obama, Reid, and Pelosi; the American people and their representatives get shut out of the process," the conservative House Freedom Caucus said in a statement. "The House Freedom Caucus strongly opposes this deal and will vote against it on the House floor."

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The group also said the bill "contains budget and accounting gimmicks that are manifestly fraudulent."

Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis was also one of the representatives to vote against the proposal.

"Bad budget deal avoids meaningful reforms and is typical of today's Washington: no transparency, no reforms, just more spending," she tweeted. "Proud to join majority of House republicans opposing bad budget deal made behind closed doors."

Republicans are also viewing the budget proposal as an opportunity to mitigate potential pitfalls of ongoing fiscal fights -- and heal fractures within the GOP, which faces several critical elections for its congressional members in 2016.

In the end, though, 79 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the bill -- including pending House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"This [bill] has some good, some bad, and some ugly. It does include meaningful reforms to strengthen our safety net programs, including significant changes to bolster Social Security. It would allow us to return to regular order in our budget process," Ryan said before Wednesday's vote. "What has been produced will go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us, and that's why I intend to support it."

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If passed by the Senate, the legislation would mean no more partisan haggling over financial matters until March 2017 -- when a new president and a new Congress will be in Washington.

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