US finally passes budget deal

A budget deal reached last week to avert a government shutdown won approval Thursday from both the House and Senate, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The measure cuts $38.5 billion in spending while funding the government for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. With its passage, the White House and Congress will now focus on what are expected to be more rancorous battles over a budget for fiscal year 2012 and the upcoming need to raise the federal debt limit.

A final-hour agreement last Friday in talks involving Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and House Speaker John Boehner included the spending cuts demanded by Republicans as a step toward controlling America’s skyrocketing debt.

The measure passed the Republican-controlled House on a 260-167 vote. The bill would not have passed without support from members of both parties, as 59 members of the Republican majority opposed it, showing the challenge faced by

Boehner in keeping his conservative Tea Party-infused caucus unified. amid politically perilous tax and spending negotiations with the Democrats.

The House vote also reflected growing liberal angst and anger over the impending spending reductions. Only 81 Democrats backed the measure; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, voted no.

In the Senate, the final vote was 81-19.

Under the deal, $38.5 billion would be from the budget including funding from a wide range of domestic programs and services such as high-speed rail, emergency first responders and the National Endowment for the Arts.

As part of the agreement, Congress also voted Thursday on measures to de-fund Planned Parenthood and Obama’s health care overhaul. As expected, both passed the House and were defeated in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

One point of concern for conservatives was a report released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing that of the $38.5 billion in savings, only $352 million will actually be realized this fiscal year. Boehner insisted Thursday that all of the cuts will take effect eventually, but conceded that the analysis “has caused some confusion” among House members.

“There are some who claim that the spending cuts in this bill … are gimmicks,” he said on the House floor. “I just think it is total nonsense. A cut is a cut.”