The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has taken a major step toward paying down the debt left over from a brutal 2010 election cycle and outraised its Republican counterpart over the first three months of the year.

The DCCC announced Thursday that it raised $19.6 million during the first quarter and has cut its debt to $8 million. The National Republican Congressional Committee wasn't far behind, raising $18.1 million in the first quarter, but also still has $8 million in debt still on the books.

After raising just over $5 million in the month of February, the DCCC reported $17.3 million in debt. 

The one major difference -- the NRCC reported nearly twice the cash on hand of the DCCC at the end of the first quarter with $9 million in the bank, compared to $4.6 million for the DCCC. The NRCC also raised $10.2 million in March.

The DCCC raised more than $1.2 million online in the month of March, and a fundraising appeal pegged to capitalize on the potential for a government shutdown netted the committee its second best day of online fundraising in its history on April 8. That haul, however, came after the books closed on the first quarter. 

The DCCC's first-quarter total comes after outraising its Republican counterpart in both January and February. In February, the DCCC raised $5.2 million to the NRCC's $4.9 million, and in January, the DCCC raised $4.4 million to the NRCC's $3 million. 

Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats to take back the House majority in 2012. 

-Updated at 10:32 a.m.