Washington, Oct 28: Striving to end a cycle of crisis, congressional leaders and the White House united behind an ambitious budget and debt deal aimed at restoring a semblance of order to Capitol Hill and ending the threat of government shutdowns and defaults until well after a new president takes office.
The outgoing House speaker, Republican John Boehner of Ohio, prepared to push the deal through his unruly chamber today as his last act before departing Congress at the end of the week.
All but forced to resign under conservative pressure, Boehner was nonetheless going out on his own terms. The budget deal stands as an in-your-face rebuttal to his hardline antagonists, on Capitol Hill and off, who angrily oppose spending increases and compromises with Democratic President Barack Obama.
They seethed but acknowledged they were powerless to stop an agreement all but certain to pass with votes from Democrats and a sizable number of Republicans. Boehner brushed off their complaints, declaring that he intended to make good on his promise to leave a "clean barn" for his successor, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is set to get the GOP nomination for speaker today and win election on the House floor the day after that.
"I didn't want him to walk into a dirty barn full of you-know-what. So I've done my best to try to clean it up," a good-humoured Boehner told reporters after a closed-door gathering of House Republicans, his last such weekly meeting after nearly five years as speaker and a quarter-century on Capitol Hill. During the meeting, Republican lawmakers had a parting gift for Boehner: a golf cart with Ohio license plates reading "MR SPKR".
Boehner told them he had a gift in return: the budget deal. The deal would boost military spending as sought by defense hawks, even as it would take away the threat of "fiscal cliffs" by a GOP-led Congress in the middle of a campaign season where Republicans are aiming for the White House and trying to hang onto their slim Senate majority.