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Senate approves debt limit extension, sends to Obama


The Senate approved a three-month suspension of the debt limit on Thursday, sending it to the White House for President Barack Obama’s likely signature.

The upper chamber voted 64 to 34 to add its approval to a plan conceived by House Republicans, which would push the deadline at which the government runs out of authority to borrow money to finance its obligations until May 18. The government would have otherwise run out of money within a matter of weeks.

In exchange for the extension of borrowing authority, both the House and Senate must now draft and approve separate budget resolutions by mid-April. The legislation approved Thursday by the Senate and last week by the House would place lawmakers’ pay into escrow if they were to fail to pass a budget.

The Obama administration has indicated that while the president would have preferred a longer-term extension of the debt ceiling, it did not oppose the short-term extension. Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Attention will now turn to the normal budgeting process that typically dominates the first few months of the calendar year in Congress. Republicans’ gambit in offering this proposal was to highlight how Senate Democrats had failed to pass a formal budget resolution in the last four years. (Democrats argue they were working off of a de-facto budget stipulated by various spending cut agreements passed by Congress.)

Leaders of both chambers have suggested they’ll push ahead with ambitious, and markedly different, budgets.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, will lead the GOP’s efforts; he’s vowed to produce a budget that would balance the budget in the next 10 years without raising any new taxes.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have said they plan to seek additional revenues from taxes in the budget they will produce. Washington Sen. Patty Murray, D, the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, will lead that effort.