Senate to hold vote on $500 billion increase in the debt ceiling

The Senate is planning a late Thursday night procedural vote on a resolution that disapproves of a pending $500 billion increase in the debt ceiling.

Under the debt-ceiling agreement reached in late July, the Obama administration was authorized to immediately raise the debt ceiling by $400 billion. Another $500 billion increase was authorized this month, although this can be blocked if the House and Senate approve resolutions disapproving of this second increase.

The Senate resolution, S.J.Res. 25, was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and has 24 cosponsors. In Thursday morning debate, McConnell suggested senators could use vote as a way to respond to President Obama's 7 p.m. speech to a joint session of Congress, in which Obama is expected request several hundred billion dollars in new spending programs.

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"Now, after the President's speech tonight calling for more stimulus spending, the Senate will vote on his request for an additional $500 billion increase in the debt ceiling," McConnell said. "So senators will have an opportunity to vote for or against this type of approach right away."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would reconvene after Obama's speech to hold a roll call vote on a motion to proceed to McConnell's resolution. Reid said if the motion to proceed prevails, the Senate would complete work on the resolution on Friday.

The resolution is not expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and may well fail in tonight's motion to proceed vote.

But a House Republican resolution has also been introduced, H.J.Res. 77, that has the potential to pass if most Republicans decide to support it. Still, House passage would not be enough to stop the $500 billion increase in the debt ceiling if the Senate votes the resolution down.

The House resolution, from Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), has 49 cosponsors, all Republicans.

The House and Senate resolutions are identical, and read:

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"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves of the President's exercise of authority to increase the debt limit, as exercised pursuant to the certification under section 3101A(a) of title 31, United States Code."

The debt-ceiling deal holds that these are privileged resolutions, and must come up for a vote. The agreement allows for no more than 10 hours of debate.

Assuming the resolution does not pass both the House and Senate, the next increase in the debt ceiling will be tied to the so-called deficit-reduction supercommittee. A minimum $1.2 trillion increase is scheduled, although this could rise to $1.5 trillion if the supercommittee agrees to make at least $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

-- This story was updated at 11:03 a.m.

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