Bipartisan deal aimed at ending budget showdowns clears Congress; Obama’s signature next
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent President Barack Obama legislation Wednesday scaling back across-the-board cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to the national park system, adding a late dusting of bipartisanship to a year more likely to be remembered for a partial government shutdown and near-perpetual gridlock.
Obama’s signature was assured on the measure, which lawmakers in both parties and at opposite ends of the Capitol said they hoped would curb budget brinkmanship and prevent more shutdowns in the near future.
“It’s a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy,” he said of the measure in a statement issued after the vote. And yet, he quickly added, “there is much more work to do to ensure our economy works for every working American.”
The legislation passed the Democratic-controlled Senate on a vote of 64-36, six days after clearing the Republican-run House by a similarly bipartisan margin of 332-94.
The product of intensive year-end talks, the measure met the short-term political needs of Republicans, Democrats and the White House. As a result, there was no suspense about the outcome of the vote in the Senate — only about fallout in the 2014 elections and, more immediately, its impact on future congressional disputes over spending and the nation’s debt limit.
In unusually heavy air assault, Syrian government pounds rebel areas of Aleppo
BEIRUT (AP) — In a withering four-day air assault, the Syrian government pummeled opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo, leveling apartment buildings, flooding hospitals with casualties and killing nearly 200 people.
Rebels say the unusually intense airstrikes have prompted civilians to flee to the countryside and could portend a government ground offensive against the opposition-held half of the city, which has been divided for a year and half by grueling fighting.