Obama sides with US Republicans to pass budget and avoid government shut-down

$1.1 trillion measure passed just hours before midnight deadline

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President Barack Obama and Republicans in the US House of Representatives joined forces to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill – narrowly avoiding a potential government shutdown even as many senior Democrats protested the legislation.

Just hours before a midnight deadline that had been imposed, the House passed the spending bill by a margin of 219-206. The Senate is due to take up the legislation today.

Many Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, had opposed the bill as they argued it included measures that would roll back banking legislation - the so-called Dodd-Frank Act introduced in the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown. Ms Pelosi had taken to the floor of the House on Thursday afternoon to speak against the measure, saying it included a giveaway to those she said were responsible for sparking the recession.

But Mr Obama and Vice President Joe Biden threw the support of the White House behind the bill, telephoning Democrats in an attempt to secure enough votes for passage of the broader measure, which combined government spending and a new course for pension plans. In a rare public clash between the two, Ms Pelosi said she was “enormously disappointed” that Mr Obama had decided to support the measure.

On Thursday evening, Democrats held a closed door meeting to consider their options. The New York Times said many of the more liberal members present sought to rally a stand against the bill, suggesting they were selling out the American middle class.

“We’ve got to stand up for principle at some point, or they’re going to kick us even more next year when they have a bigger majority,” said Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon. “They know we will stand our ground on principle in the future and not roll us so easily again.”

Underscoring Mr Obama’s wish for the measure to be passed before the midnight deadline, the Politico website reported that the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough visited Capitol Hill earlier on Thursday to try and convince Democrats to support the bill, which had been nicknamed “the cromnibus”.

In the end, a total of 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with 162 Republicans to help pass the measure, undermining Ms Pelosi’s stance.

“The administration appreciates the bipartisan effort to include full-year appropriations legislation for most government functions that allows for planning and provides certainty, while making progress toward appropriately investing in economic growth and opportunity, and adequately funding national security requirements,” said a White House statement.

The late night drama cleared the way for a final showdown over the bill in the Senate.

When Congress convenes in January, Republicans will have control of the Senate for the first time in eight years, and will hold their strongest majority in the House in more than eight decades.