WASHINGTON - House Republicans pushed past their internal divisions to approve a budget blueprint Wednesday, putting the new Congress on track to notch a significant achievement once Senate Republicans pass their version by the end of the week.
The ambitious but largely symbolic spending proposals adhere to Republican ideas for slashing social safety-net programs and lowering tax rates.
But they have drawn criticism for dramatically boosting defense spending in a way that breaks with the Republican pledge to stick to deficit-lowering limits imposed at their own behest just a few years ago.
Overcoming those differences between the party's defense and deficit hawks posed a daunting challenge for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio), and his leadership team. Rather than take sides, Boehner took the unusual step of allowing competing proposals to come to the floor, letting the top vote-getter win.
Both budget versions would boost Pentagon spending, but one would make part of the money contingent on finding spending cuts elsewhere, an uncertain prospect. The other version - backed by military supporters - would provide the extra money regardless.
In a win for defense hawks, the House voted 219-208 for the amendment that guaranteed the money. The final budget was approved 228-199. All Democrats opposed.
"Budgets aren't easy things, clearly," said House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R., Ga.) as voting began. "We've navigated some interesting times."
The Senate, meanwhile, continued working through amendments to its plan, with passage expected late Thursday or early Friday in an all-night session.
Once both chambers finish their work this week, new challenges await when they return from a spring break next month.
The House and Senate must reconcile their different versions, which could prove difficult. The House plan overhauls Medicare by creating a voucherlike option for seniors to purchase private health insurance. Senate Republicans have distanced themselves from that approach and did not include it in their budget.