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US Senate OKs Debt Limit, Biden to Sign

FILE: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY.,at podium gestures as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Il., left, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., right, listen at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2020, in Washington. On Thursday, Schumer got an OK of the debt limit bill, avoiding a U.S. default.

WASHINGTON — Fending off a U.S. default, the Senate has given final approval to a debt ceiling and budget cuts package. It's now on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law before a fast-approaching deadline.

The Senate worked Thursday evening, voting 63-36 to wrap up work on the hard-fought debt limit deal.

The compromise package negotiated before the Senate vote, between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, cuts spending for two years and suspends the debt limit until 2025 after the next presidential election.

Approval in the Senate relied on centrists in both parties to pull the Biden-McCarthy package to passage — though Democrats led the tally in both chambers.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of voting that the bill's passage means “America can breathe a sigh of relief.”

Afterward he said, “We’ve saved the country from the scourge of default.”

Biden said he would sign the bill into law as soon as possible. “No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: this bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people,” the president said.

The White House said he would address the nation about the matter at 7 p.m. EDT Friday.

Fast action was vital if Washington hoped to meet next Monday's deadline, when Treasury has said the U.S. will start running short of cash to pay its bills, risking a devastating default. Raising the nation’s debt limit, now $31.4 trillion, would ensure Treasury could borrow to pay already incurred U.S. debts.

Overall, the bill restricts spending for the next two years, and changes some policies, including imposing new work requirements for older U.S. residents getting food aid, and giving the green light to a natural gas pipeline that many Democrats opposed. .

It bolsters funds for defense and veterans, cuts back new money for Internal Revenue Service agents, and rejects Biden’s call to roll back Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy to help cover the nation’s deficits. It imposes automatic 1% cuts if Congress fails approve its annual spending bills.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load.