Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have passed a compromise budget deal that would see the country avoid a government shutdown for the next two years. The agreement is now in the hands of the US Senate.
The compromise reached between the Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama's Democrats passed easily by a vote of 332-94.
The deal is designed to ease some of the harshest effects of another round of automatic spending cuts already in place. It leaves in place most of the $1 trillion (727 billion euros) in automatic cuts to the budgets of the Pentagon and other government agencies through 2021, but it also eases particularly deep cuts scheduled to hit in 2014 and 2015.
The White House praised the deal, which marked a rare case of cooperation between the two parties, at loggerheads for much of the past three years since the Republicans retook control of the House.
"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," a statement released by the office of President Barack Obama's press secretary said.
Better than no deal at all
While neither side was completely happy with the compromise, both agreed that it was better than no agreement at all, which would have brought with it the risk of another government shutdown, such as the one that made much of Washington grind to a halt for 16 days in October.
"This agreement is better than the alternative, but it misses a huge opportunity to do what this country expects us to do and that is put this nation on a fiscally sustainable path," Democrat Steny Hoyer said prior to the vote.
Republican Representative Paul Ryan, who hashed out the compromise with Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, said the deal did "not go near as far as we want to go, but at least (it is) going in the direction that we want to go" in terms of reducing the deficit.
Observers regard the compromise as a major victory for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who earlier in the day struck back at criticism of the deal from supporters of conservative activist groups and the Tea Party.
"Our job is to find enough common ground to move the ball down the field on behalf of the American people who sent us here to do their work," Boehner said.
The deal still has to be approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate before President Obama can sign it into law. It is expected to debate the bill sometime next week.
pfd/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)