Senate votes to raise debt limit by $2.5 trillion, avoiding default

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday to lift the nation’s debt limit by $2.5 trillion under a deal struck between party leaders, defusing a volatile issue until after next year’s midterm elections while saddling majority Democrats with a tough vote.

The 50-49 party line vote came just one day shy of a deadline set by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who warned last month that she was running out of maneuvering room to avoid the nation’s first-ever default. The measure now moves to the House where a vote could come as early as Tuesday night, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk. The bill contained one Republican vote, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

“The full faith and credit of the United States should never be questioned,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said from the House floor shortly before the vote.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah criticized the process Schumer and McConnell agreed to, which he warned could be used in the future to “launder” potentially unpopular votes while bypassing the Senate’s normal mode of operation.

Lee said the process was intended to make the Republican votes last week “appear as something other than helping Democrats raise the debt ceiling,” which he said Republican leadership “committed, in writing no less, not to do.”

The nation’s current debt load of $28.9 trillion. Major drivers include popular spending programs, like Social Security and Medicare, interest on the debt and recent COVID-19 relief packages.

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