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Noem votes for budget deal

By The Associated Press and The Daily Republic

WASHINGTON — Battle fatigued and suddenly bipartisan, the House voted Thursday night to ease across-the-board federal spending cuts and prevent future government shutdowns, acting after Speaker John Boehner unleashed a stinging attack on tea party-aligned conservative groups campaigning for the measure’s defeat.

The legislation, backed by the White House, cleared on a vote of 332-94, with lopsided majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike voting in favor. Final passage is expected next week in the Senate.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.  Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., voted for the deal, saying it reduces the federal deficit by $23 billion without raising taxes and will probably avoid another government shutdown.

“This agreement is not perfect by any means, but it takes a small step in the right direction and starts us on a path to more productive budgetary discussions,” said Rep. Noem in a written statement emailed to supporters and reporters.

“The budget agreement came together through a bipartisan process that kept all our principles intact. It does not raise taxes or increase the deficit, but it does protect critical defense programs and makes small but permanent reforms to mandatory spending. While it doesn’t solve all our budgetary problems, the bipartisan agreement stops Congress from legislating from one crisis to the next and brings us closer to addressing our nation’s fiscal crisis.”

In a conference call with reporters held just hours before Thursday’s vote, Noem said she was still undecided on how she would vote. The deal does not address the “drivers of our debt,” she said, referring to Medicare and Social Security, and it does not balance the budget. But it will ease some of the so-called sequestration cuts set to hit the military.

“When you look at Ellsworth Air Force Base and the National Guard and what that’s done to our national security, I am looking at the fact we’ve got some problems funding our readiness,” Noem said. “We want our men and women to have the best equipment when we send them to defend our country. I want to make sure we’re funding defense adequately but also addressing our spending and deficit problem.”

The events in the House gave a light coating of bipartisan cooperation to the end of a bruising year of divided government — memorable for a partial government shutdown, flirtation with an unprecedented Treasury default and gridlock on immigration, gun control and other items on President Barack Obama’s secondterm agenda.

In the end, the debate in the House was tame by comparison with Boehner’s criticism of Republican-favoring outside groups that at times have been more of an obstacle to him than Democrats.

“I think they’re misleading their followers,” the Republican speaker said of the groups, whom he pointedly also blamed for last fall’s politically damaging partial government shutdown. “I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility” by opposing legislation before the details are known.

He mentioned no organizations by name, although it appeared he was referring to Heritage Action and Club for Growth, both of which have sought to push the House further to the right than the Republican leadership has been willing to go.