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Politics

US Senate approves raising debt ceiling

The US Senate has approved a measure to raise the country's debt ceiling for one more year. The "no strings attached" bill now awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

The upper house of the US Congress voted 55-43 on Wednesday in favor of a bill which will allow the US to continue borrowing normally for the next 13 months, also known as "raising the debt ceiling." The House of Representatives - the lower house - passed the measure the previous day by a narrow 221-201.

"What needed to get done got done," Republican Senator Bob Corker said after the vote on Wednesday.

"At the end of the day there was no stated outcome by any way other than a clean debt ceiling," Corker added.

The final outcome in the Senate followed a tense procedural vote, which would have derailed the measure had it not been for 12 Republicans who joined the Democrats to push the bill over the initial hurdle 67-31.

Once President Obama signs the bill into law, the US Treasury will be able to pay its current debts, estimated at more than $17 trillion (12.5 trillion euros) until March 15, 2015. Without Congressional approval, the US would have exhausted its borrowing capacity by the end of the month, stopping it from paying, among other things, federal workers' salaries and pensions.

Unlike previous attempts to raise the debt ceiling, this week's measure lacked the additional items aimed at forcing the Obama administration to make political concessions and was, therefore, seen as a victory.

In October, Republican lawmakers attempted to block funding for the president'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.

This week's bill now pushes the issue of US debt down the road, well past mid-term elections in November.

kms/ch (AFP, Reuters)

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