The U.S. Senate, in an unusual procedure, cleared the way Thursday for the U.S. to lift its borrowing authority by $500 billion to $15.19 trillion, enough to keep the support federal government borrowing through late January or early February.
The action came under an unusual legislative procedure spelled out under the August agreement to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and avoid a U.S. credit default. In a 52-45 vote, the Senate blocked an attempt by Republicans to slow down the process that will result in the $500 billion debt-ceiling increase.
The increase stems from a deal between Congress and the White House, finalized last month, that spells out how the borrowing limit would be increased by $500 billion. Under the process, lawmakers in both the House and Senate must vote on a resolution of disapproval against the increase in the borrowing limit. President Barack Obama would then have to veto the resolution of disapproval, and Congress would then vote to try and override that veto.
The complicated procedure, designed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), would allow an increase of the borrowing limit while allowing most Republicans to vote against such an increase.
There was a twist in this scenario Thursday evening, however. Democrats held firm, rejecting the resolution of disapproval, thereby speeding the process and increasing the borrowing limit immediately.
Only Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) broke from his party to vote with the Republicans in trying to move forward with the measure.
The next increase in the borrowing limit, likely in the first quarter of next year, will be dependent on the ability of a panel of 12 lawmakers to reach a deal that cuts at least $1.2 trillion from federal budget deficits over the next decade.
Note: see the summary here.