Senate Approves Debt Ceiling Bill
The legislation to suspend the nation’s debt limit for several months has cleared the Senate Thursday after several failed votes on Republican-supported amendments to cut federal spending. It is now on its way to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.
The GOP amendments had little chance of getting enough Democratic support to reach the 60 votes they needed but they did serve to release some of the frustrations among Republican senators regarding the bill that would allow the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling to be increased to allow payment of the nation’s bills until May.
The final bill was approved with the vote of 64 to 34. President Obama is expected to quickly sign the measure as lawmakers are preparing for the next fiscal battle involving the automatic spending cuts that will take effect on March 1 if nothing is done to stop them.
The $1.3 trillion in cuts was considered so severe that they forced Congress to come up with alternative deficit reduction strategy. With just a month before the cuts take effect, Congress looks like it is unable to reach a compromise regarding tax and spending alternatives.
The debt limit measure will suspend the borrowing authority limit through May 19. The Treasury Department expected to continue paying the nation’s bills with extraordinary measures through summer.
Another $450 billion in debt is expected to come as the nation’s bills are paid. It would push the debt to $17 trillion. Republicans have been complaining since House Speaker John Boehner planned a debt ceiling bill in the chamber last week. They complained that they gave up the opportunity to get more spending cuts from the White House.
To get the support of the GOP, Boehner places a provision that would withhold lawmakers’ pay if the House or Senate fails to approve a budget for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year. Boehner wanted to avoid a credit default that could be risky if the debt limit was not raised.