Senate Passes Budget Bill, in Break From Gridlock

The bill crafted by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray passed by a majority vote of 64-36

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Correction appended: Dec. 18, 2013, 10:45 p.m. E.T.

The Senate gave final passage on Wednesday to a bipartisan budget deal that sets spending levels and prevents another government shutdown for the next two years, capping the most significant break from congressional gridlock that has consumed Washington in recent years.

The final vote was 64-36, with nine Republicans joining all the Democrats in supporting the measure, which the House passed last week by a vote of 332-94 and President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law.

The legislation, crafted in an agreement between Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, the top-ranking budget lawmakers in each party, sets top-line spending levels for the federal government for two years, leaving Congress to determine later exactly how all that money will be spent. It also replaces some of the automatic spending cuts mandated by so-called sequestration with more targeted cuts, and raises revenue through fees, but not higher taxes.

“This vote shows both parties — in both chambers — can find common ground,” Ryan said in a statement after the vote. “We can work together.”

Some conservative Republicans had opposed the measure because they say it sets spending levels too high, and some liberal Democrats voiced dissatisfaction with it because it fails to extend unemployment benefits that are expiring for more than a million Americans at the end of the year. But in the end, the impetus to avoid another shutdown — like the one in October that hurt the economy and sent Republicans’ poll numbers into a nosedive — was enough for lawmakers to cut a deal.

Still, some conservative Republicans remained critical of the bill after the vote. “It’s a huge step backwards,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s a compromise toward not being really serious about our debt.”

While the deal is the clearest break from the partisan warfare of the past few years, it doesn’t rule out more brinkmanship altogether: Republicans continue to signal they will use the need to raise the government’s debt ceiling early next year as another chance to extract concessions on spending.

A previous headline on this article misstated Paul Ryan’s congressional title. He is a Representative, not a Senator.