Senate kills measure to stop President Obama from raising debt limit

President Obama will raise the nation’s debt limit to $16.39 trillion after the Senate on Thursday killed a measure to stop the president from adding $1.2 trillion to the total.

After just over two hours of debate, the Senate voted 44-52 to block a motion to disapprove the debt-limit increase, which the House passed overwhelmingly last week. Four Senate Republicans missed the vote.

The $1.2 trillion debt increase is expected to cover the nation’s borrowing requirements until after the November election. A GOP aide said Congress would have to vote on another increase if the administration spends the money faster than anticipated.

Conservatives accused their colleagues of abandoning fiscal responsibility. 

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“I’m embarrassed for us that we failed to meet the standard that we ask of the people who serve this country,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). “We have done nothing to eliminate the duplication in the 82 federal government programs for teacher quality. We have done nothing to consolidate the 88 economic development programs. 

“We have no business teaching anybody financial literacy when we don’t even have it ourselves,” he added.

The House voted 239-176, largely along party lines, to stop Obama from raising the debt limit. But the measure needed to be approved by the Senate, as well.

Democrats argued that raising the debt limit simply covers obligations the federal government has already incurred and does not authorize new spending.

“Last week the House of Representatives said, ‘No, we don’t want to extend the debt ceiling.’ The same members of the House who voted for the spending bill, the same members who voted for the Budget Enforcement Act, the same members who give speeches back home about how we can’t turn our backs on our men and women in uniform,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “It is a totally inconsistent position.” 

Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), two Democrats from conservative-leaning states, bucked their party leadership and voted with Republicans to advance the disapproval motion. 

Obama requested latest debt limit increase on Jan. 12.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier this month, Obama said the greater borrowing authority is needed to meet existing agreements.

GOP strategists said that vulnerable Democratic incumbents from so-called red states would suffer politically for voting against the disapproval motion.

“I can’t imagine why red-state Democrats would not vote with Republicans to disapprove raising the debt limit,” said a senior GOP aide.