02:21 GMT +307 December 2019
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    US House Passes Trump-Backed Bipartisan Deal on US Spending, Debt Limits

    © AFP 2019 / Jewel Samad
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    The US House of Representatives passed a key budget bill on Thursday, raising the debt ceiling and setting budget levels for the next two years. The bill must still be passed by the Senate and signed by the president, however.

    Pressure was on for the House to approve the bill before breaking for its August recess: economists feared the US might miss a debt payment default before the lawmakers returned in early September. House members leave for greener pastures on Friday, but the Senate will have another week to decide whether to approve the bill, as US President Donald Trump has urged.

    Earlier this week, Trump announced that an agreement had been reached between himself and leaders from both major parties in the House and Senate about the budget and debt ceiling question, boasting that it included "no poison pills." Debate over the issue has become fierce in the past, with the two sides unwilling to compromise until just hours before the US risked a default. This past December and January, it provoked a 35-day federal government shutdown after neither party blinked in the game of financial chicken.

    That divide was reflected in how lawmakers voted Thursday: the bill passed 284-149, but nearly one-third of Republican representatives voted against the bill and all but 16 Democrats voted for it, even after Republican Trump's explicit urging of its passage was voiced.

    “We don’t believe we should bankrupt America,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who chairs the right-wing House Freedom Caucus. “We have a difference of opinion on this particular issue - one that’s not going to change.”

    However, while House Republicans sneered at the $320 billion spending increase they once fought hard to curb, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), remarked that it “achieves the No. 1 goal of the Republican side of the aisle, providing for the common defense.” He said he expects the Senate to approve the bill after the House does.

    The bill sets discretionary spending levels for both military and non-military applications at $1.37 trillion for Fiscal Year 2020 - which begins in October - and a bit higher for FY 2021. A 2011 compromise on spending caps aimed at trimming the US national debt over the long term split discretionary spending into the two categories.

    “Every now and then you need to sit down and put what’s good for the American people first,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). “We all know that a catastrophic debt ceiling crisis and default, what that would do to our economy, how many people that would put out of work. ... These are huge, huge wins.”

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    Tags:
    compromise, deficit, budget, national debt, US House of Representatives, debt limit
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