January 31, 2013
Senate Passes Debt Ceiling Suspension, Obama to Sign
The U.S. Senate has joined the House in suspending the debt ceiling - a limit on how much money the federal government can borrow to meet its debts.
The Senate passed the bill Thursday, 64 to 34. The House of Representatives approved it last week and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it.
The bill puts off any action in Congress to raise the debt ceiling, which now stands at $16.4 trillion, and it ensures the United States will not default on its financial obligations this month, which had been a possibility. The bill will allow the government to keep borrowing money to pay salaries, pensions and interest on bonds until the middle of May.
The debt ceiling bill sets an April 15 deadline for passage of a budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in September. If that copndition is not met, the legislation would stop salary payments for all members of Congress.
The lengthy and often bitter debate over U.S. government spending and the nation's growing debt has been marked by partisan political differences. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have called for sharp cuts in federal spending programs to reduce the national debt and balance the budget. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate, have supported the White House position that spending cuts must be accompanied by an increase in government revenues, coming from higher taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans.