WASHINGTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday were falling in line behind a two-year budget deal negotiated behind closed doors, indicating that this normally rambunctious group of lawmakers is not spoiling for a year-end fiscal fight.
Despite conservative groups denouncing the $85 billion plan, the Republican-controlled House could vote as early as Thursday to lock into place a measure that would minimize chances of any further government shutdowns at least until October, 2015.
Passage in the House would all but guarantee the same in the Senate, probably next week.
Representative Tom Cole told reporters that a majority of his fellow House Republicans will vote for the budget deal, which would replace some of the indiscriminate across-the-board agency spending cuts that are scheduled for the next two years.
"A lot of support was expressed for it" during a closed meeting of House Republicans, Cole told reporters.
The plan announced late on Tuesday by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, a Democrat, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican, marked a shift away from three years of budget standoffs.
Those standoffs became so partisan that they led to a 16-day partial government shutdown in October after many federal agencies were left with no money to operate.
The sea change in a Congress that opinion polls show is scorned by the public, also came as Republicans are investing nearly all of their energy in showcasing problems with President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law.
Another messy fight over the budget could have taken attention away from "Obamacare" after Republicans have scored public relations gains from the flawed roll-out of the program in October.
Republicans have openly acknowledged that they also did not want a budget fight to tamp down consumer confidence during the Christmas season that is so crucial to retailers. But at the same time, they have resisted Democratic efforts during budget negotiations to extend federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, which are set to expire later this month.
(Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Fred Barbash and Vicki Allen)