A plan to lift the nation's debt limit and reduce government spending cleared a crucial hurdle in the House on Monday night, as recalcitrant Republicans and disappointed Democrats rallied around a measure to avert a government default.
With Senate approval all but certain, the 269-to-161 vote in the House ended a months-long partisan stalemate that threatened to destabilise global markets and undermine the sputtering economic recovery.
The Senate vote is set for late Tuesday. Approval would send the measure to president Barack Obama and immediately grant the Treasury $400 billion in additional borrowing authority, just hours before a midnight deadline.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) won over more than two-thirds of his caucus by assuring the lawmakers that few GOP priorities were in the line of fire and that Obama had retreated on his demand for higher taxes.
Angry Democrats largely shared that assessment.But after withholding their votes for most of the roll call, they split evenly for and against the proposal, which would cut at least $2.1 trillion from projected borrowing over the next decade without any immediate provision for new taxes.
A grueling battle that had consumed Congress for most of the spring and the summer ended with a large round of bipartisan applause shortly after 7 pm, when the legislation secured a majority.
The lawmakers were brought to their feet again by the stunning appearance of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who cast her first vote — in favour of the debt deal — since she was shot in the head in early January in Tucson.
The debt plan prompted grumbling from some GOP defense hawks about proposed cuts to next year's Pentagon budget.
But Monday's final hours were more notable for the cries from House liberals, who charged that the measure gave them little to support.
Aside from potential military cuts, Democrats said the agreement calls on Republicans to sacrifice very few priorities, while asking Democrats to accept steep reductions in programs that benefit the middle class.
"It's time for America to deal with its spending problem, and deal with the fact that we've made promises to the American people that our kids and grandkids just can't afford," Boehner said at a valedictory news conference 31 / 2 hours before he gaveled the vote shut.
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