"The president has an obligation to implement these cuts in a way that respects the American people, rather than using them for political leverage," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a written statement.
"Unfortunately for this administration, the term 'sequester' has become synonymous with fear," Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said during the debate.
Halting the furloughs was the latest example of lawmakers easing parts of the sequester that became too painful.
They previously used a separate, wide-ranging spending bill to provide more money for meat and poultry inspectors. Attorney General Eric Holder cited extra funds in that same bill as the reason the Justice Department would be able to avoid furloughs. Transportation Security Administration employees also have gotten relief.
The Obama administration and congressional Democrats — backed by many fiscal experts — say the sequester law gives agencies little maneuverability, requiring them to spread cuts evenly among most budget accounts. The Federal Aviation Administration was achieving about a third of its required $637 million in cuts by furloughing nearly all its workers — including the 15,000 air traffic controllers — one day every two weeks.
Obama and his Democratic allies want to roll back the entire sequester, with the White House proposing a substitute mix of spending cuts and tax increases that Republicans have rejected. The GOP has proposed replacing the across-the-board spending cuts with others, many of them aimed at programs Democrats defend.
That has left many Democrats reluctant to ease across-the-board cuts for individual programs that cause a public outcry because they worry that would relieve pressure on Republicans to undo the entire sequester.
"While there is a little bit of leverage and pressure, let's broaden it to the sequester as a whole," Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., told reporters before voting against the bill.