Senate approves $290B increase in debt limit

The vote passed 60-39, with every Democrat but Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) supporting it. Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio) was the only Republican to vote for it.

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The House passed the same $290 billion increase last week.

The Obama administration said the short-term increase was necessary because the federal debt was approaching its $12.1 trillion ceiling. The move will give Congress until mid-February to pass a longer-term increase.

Senate Republicans reluctantly agreed to the pre-Christmas vote instead of drawing out debate and forcing Democrats to pass it after the holiday. But GOP members insisted that the threshold for passage be 60 votes, instead of a simple majority, as it had been in past votes to increase the debt limit. Democrats also agreed to a debate on the longer-term increase on Jan. 20, a day after the Senate returns from the holiday break and around the time President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Texas coal plant to shut down | Macron rejects trade deals with climate pact outsiders | Vote on park funding bills to miss deadline Obama urges Americans to vote: 'This moment is too important to sit out' Trump doctrine just declared at UN — and it’s called ‘maximum pressure’ MORE is expected to give a State of the Union address that will focus on deficit reduction and the economy.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had pushed lawmakers last summer to increase the limit by October, fearing that debt would surpass it then. Congress had voted earlier this year to raise the limit to $12.1 trillion, but it was forced to vote again because of the record $1.4 trillion deficit in 2009. With the deficit expected to top $1 trillion in 2010, Democrats have considered raising the limit by as much as $1.9 trillion to avoid another poisonous debt vote before the midterm elections in November.

After the vote, Bayh released a statement saying he couldn't vote for the debt-ceiling increase because lawmakers have yet to adopt a "credible process to restrain spending and eliminate red ink."

“Washington can’t keep maxing out the national credit card with borrowed money from China," he said in a statement. "It’s time to take away the credit card from politicians who just want to spend, spend, spend and begin to restore our country’s fiscal health.”

Bayh is among a group of about a dozen Senate Democrats who said they wouldn't vote to increase the limit in the absence of a plan to eventually deal with red ink. The group said its support was contingent on congressional leaders allowing a vote on a special commission that would come up with a debt-reduction plan.

An amendment creating the commission, pushed by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) along with Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), will come up during the January debt-limit debate under the agreement reached between Democratic and Republican Senate leaders. Republican amendments that will be considered seek to institute spending caps, restrict the use of remaining bank bailout money, rescind spending and block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.