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Editorial: Budget deal foes display lack of leadership

It could have been worse; it’s not pretty; and it’s better than the alternative.

So go the reviews of the federal budget deal that was approved Thursday by the House by a 332-94 vote, and that now heads to the Senate for a vote next week. There is much to dislike in the budget; budgets always have warts.

But at least the budget, modest though it is, appears resolved. Partisan brinkmanship that led to a government shutdown in October is over, for now. That, in itself, is a step in the right bipartisan direction.

There’s plenty the deal fails to achieve. Most notably, the House is leaving Washington without having extended unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed. Nor does it deal with the debt ceiling or close gaping tax loopholes.

But for the time being, it will end the practice – assuming it wins Senate approval – of leaving spending on autopilot through the continuing resolutions that have kept the government operating. For the next two years, Congress will take the lead in determining what gets funded or not, as the Constitution contemplates.

The deal would increase spending to $1.012trillion in the coming year and $1.014trillion in the fiscal year that begins next October, up from $967billion currently.

Importantly, some of the dull-bladed sequester cuts to worthy programs such as Head Start and low-income housing will come to an end as a result of the deal.

It also will shave $23billion from the deficit and could place the budget in balance 10 years from now, while raising fees on air travelers and requiring federal workers to pay larger shares into their pensions.

House Speaker John Boehner finally showed backbone and appropriate anger by challenging conservative campaign operatives who are threatening to fund challengers to Republicans who supported the budget accord. It’s about time.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gained stature by finding common ground with Democrats, specifically the Senate’s lead budget negotiator, Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Ryan, the former vice-presidential candidate, acknowledged critics on the right but also repeated the truism that elections have consequences. The ticket on which he ran lost to President Barack Obama, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.

“To do what we want, we’re going to have to win some elections,” Ryan said on the House floor shortly before the vote.

In the final tally, 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats supported it. They are to be commended.

Of the 62 House Republicans who opposed it, two are from California: Tom McClintock of Elk Grove and Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County.

Seven of 32 Democrats who voted against it are Californians: Barbara Lee of Oakland, and Judy Chu, Karen Bass, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Maxine Waters, Linda Sanchez and Loretta Sanchez, all of the Los Angeles area.

Each have good reasons for voting against the deal. No doubt, as details emerge, there will be even less to like. But the naysayers displayed a lack of leadership.

The budget is near done and the government will continue to function, for a while. It’s a small victory, but one worth taking.