Relief for Obama after debt battle ends
Washington - The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that heads off an unprecedented US financial default and begins the process of curbing the country's spiraling debt.
With less than 12 hours to go before the deadline, President Barack Obama promised to sign the measure immediately.
After weeks of some of the nastiest political battles in recent US history, both the Senate and House of Representatives, which voted on Monday night, easily adopted the plan that raises the current $14.3 trillion cap on US borrowing, which expires at midnight.
In tandem with increasing the borrowing limit, legislators approved more than $2 trillion of budget cuts over the upcoming decade.
The administration had said that without the new borrowing authority, the government could not pay all its bills. Administration officials say a default would ensue that would severely damage the global economy.
The compromise deal deeply angered both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. Many Republicans contended the bill still would cut too little from federal spending; many Democrats said much too much. Still, Republican lawmakers supported the compromise, 174-66, while Democrats split, 95-95
The measure was crafted through the crucible of one of the United States' nastiest political fights in recent history. It carefully threaded the needle between the philosophically opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Polls showed that Congress and Obama have taken a sharp hit in US public opinion because of the prolonged battle over lifting the debt ceiling, something that past Congresses have done as a matter of course.
Without legislation in place by the end of Tuesday, the Treasury would run out of cash needed to pay investors in Treasury bonds, recipients of Social Security pension cheques, anyone relying on military veterans' benefits and businesses that do work for the government.