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Philly-area Reps all back budget deal

WASHINGTON -- Every member of Congress from the Philadelphia area voted to approve a bipartisan, two-year budget deal Thursday evening, helping secure passage of a plan that will provide some relief from the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester and avoid the fiscal brinksmanship that have characterized recent years in Washington.

"Although this budget is a long way from perfect, I am pleased that both parties have come together with a proposal that keeps our government running and avoids another government shutdown on Jan. 15," U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, a South Jersey Republican, said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County and part of Philadelphia, said "the bipartisan budget agreement is far from perfect but it is an improvement over current law and a step toward fully replacing the damaging sequester cuts that have cost Pennsylvania jobs and put our nation's economy at risk."

Also voting yes were Democratic Reps. Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah, from Philadelphia; Republicans Mike Fitzpatrick (Bucks County), Jim Gerlach (Chester County), Pat Meehan (Delaware County) and Charlie Dent (Lehigh County) and, from South Jersey, Democrat Rob Andrews and Republicans Chris Smith and Frank LoBiondo.

Andrews, like others, criticized some of the details of the bill, but praised a plan that should help avoid the kind of showdowns that have led to the "fiscal cliff" and the government shutdown earlier this year.

"Knowing that for two years the freak show ends here, I think it's worth it," Andrews said in a conference call earlier this week.

The budget plan passed the House 332-94. It still awaits Senate approval, with a vote likely next week.

On the House vote, 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats voted yes; 62 Republicans and 32 Democrats voted no.

The objections largely came from conservatives who were upset that the plan increases spending over previously set levels and from liberals who sought an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, which are set to expire late this month.

Democratic New Jersey Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, who both ran for Senate earlier this year, were two of the "no" votes.

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