News Column

US Senate Approves Debt Ceiling Fix

Jan 31, 2013

A measure that would allow the US federal government to continue borrowing money for the next four months passed the Senate Thursday, removing at least temporarily the threat of default.

The 64-34 vote in the upper chamber of Congress follows passage last week in the lower House of Representatives, and US President Barack Obama has indicated he will sign the measure into law.

The measure would suspend the country's debt limit until May 19, allowing the government to continue borrowing money to meet immediate needs.

The House passage last week had defused tension between Republicans and Obama over the issue after he had demanded an increase of the debt limit. Historically, Congress has always raised the debt limit without question until the past year and a half, when Republicans tried to use it to force budget cuts.

Republicans who control the House put forward the proposal to avert the immediate default threat, but included language that forces the Democrats in control of the upper Senate to vote on a budget before a longer-term deal.

The US Treasury had said that the current 16.4-trillion-dollar debt limit must be raised by the end of February.

The debt-limit suspension would give Congress and the White House time to forge a budget plan including medium-term reduction of the government's operating deficit, which has annually topped 1 trillion dollars for the last several years.

The measure would also withhold pay from lawmakers starting in April, until a budget is passed. The pay measure is intended to force the Senate to act on the budget.

The House, where the conservative Republican Party has held a majority since January 2011, has continued to pass annual budgets. The Senate, controlled by Obama's left-leaning Democrats, has not passed a full federal budget in four years, forcing Congress to continually pass short-term measures to keep the government running.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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