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Politics

US House of Representatives approves raising debt ceiling, no strings attached

The lower house of the United States Congress has approved a measure to raise the country's debt ceiling for one more year. The bill was narrowly passed and is now expected to win Senate approval.

US House approves debt ceiling

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to raise the United States' debt ceiling for one more year. The measure was approved 221-201, with only 28 Republicans voting "yay," including House speaker John Boehner. Although the vote was split almost down the middle, the move was seen as one more small victory in a fractured Congress, which has been the site of many a political stalemate in recent years.

The bill allows the US Treasury to continue borrowing normally until March 15, 2015 in order to pay its current debts, estimated at more than $17 trillion (12.5 trillion euros). The loans finance a number of government bills, among them pensions and federal workers' salaries.

US Vice President Joe Biden called the outcome "a victory for the country." He was echoed by the director of the White House's National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, who said House Republicans' decision to avoid a dramatic showdown indicated "that the tactic of threatening default or threatening the full faith and credit of the United States for budget debates is over."

Unlike previous pieces of legislation aimed at reining in Washington's debt, the measure on Tuesday did not include additional items aimed at forcing the Obama administration to make political concessions.

In October, Republican lawmakers attempted to block funding for President Barack Obama's controversial overhaul of the American health care system by refusing to agree to raise the debt ceiling. The political manoeuvre resulted in a 16-day government shutdown - the country's first in nearly two decades - and led to a sharp drop in Republican-support among Americans.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to vote on the legislation as early as next week.

kms/ch (AP, AFP, dpa)

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