U.S. Senate passes debt limit extension bill


U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to extend the country's debt limit into 2015, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill, approved in a 55-43 vote along party lines, would extend the federal government's borrowing authority through March 15, 2015, well past the midterm election. It would allow the Treasury Department to issue new debt needed above the current 17. 2 trillion cap.

Before the final vote, the Senate voted 67-31 to advance the legislation over the procedural hurdle threatened by some conservative Republicans.

The bill cleared the House of Representatives on Tuesday, largely on the backs of Democrats.

The so called "clean" debt limit bill signifies a retreat from a long-held Republican strategy of seeking concessions in exchange for a debt-limit increase, handing victory to Obama and Democrats who have demanded a debt limit hike without conditions.

On Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner decided to drop the plan he floated Monday night which would have linked the debt limit hike with a reversal of planned military pension cuts included in December bipartisan budget agreement. He admitted disappointment as he realized it won't get enough support.

The House Republican leaders had made several attempts to come up with policy provisions to attach to an increase in the country' s borrowing limit. The decision to go forward with a "clean" debt ceiling bill highlighted the lack of consensus and the growing sense of urgency for Republicans who face a truncated calendar ahead of the Feb. 27 deadline set by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

After seeing their poll numbers battered in October government shutdown, Republicans have become reluctant toward confrontation on the debt limit issue which would bring them nothing but public blame.

Without an increase in the statutory borrowing limit, the U.S. government would face the threat of an historic default that could wreak havoc in global financial markets and hurt economic recovery.