U.S. House passes "clean" debt-limit bill


U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill with no provisions attached to extend the limit on the federal government's borrowing authority.

The legislation, approved in a 221-201 vote, would suspend the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, allowing the Treasury Department to issue new debt above the current 17.2 trillion cap.

The bill eliminates the threat of default and puts off debate on the issue till after the 2014 midterm elections.

It signifies a retreat from a long-held Republican strategy of seeking concessions in exchange for a debt-limit increase, delivering victory to U.S. President Barack Obama who has demanded a debt limit hike without conditions.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning that he would advance a "clean" debt-limit bill to the House floor, abandoning a proposal circulated Monday which would have linked the debt limit increase with a reversal of military benefits cuts.

On Monday night, Boehner laid out a plan to pair the debt limit hike with a restoration of the veterans' benefits, which were cut in last year's bipartisan budget agreement. However, the plan failed to garner enough support among the Republican members and the GOP leader worried that Democrats would not go along.

The House Republican leader had struggled for more than a week 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. Lawmakers in the lower chamber are set to depart Wednesday for a nearly two-week recess.

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

The Democratic-controlled Senate would hold a vote on the bill on Wednesday. Congressional Democrats have long insisted the debt limit be raised with no strings attached.