Skip to main content

Senate delays debt limit deadline

By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 2135 GMT (0535 HKT)
The Senate passed legislation on Thursday extending the federal government's ability to borrow new money through mid-May.
The Senate passed legislation on Thursday extending the federal government's ability to borrow new money through mid-May.
  • Senate passes bill suspending federal debt ceiling until May 19
  • Obama likely to sign the bill, which also passed the House
  • Bill requires lawmakers to pass budget resolutions by April 15 or have pay withheld
  • Congress also confronting budget sequester and government funding deadlines

Washington (CNN) -- The Democratic-controlled Senate passed legislation on Thursday extending the federal government's ability to borrow new money through mid-May, delaying a partisan standoff that some analysts warn could derail a fragile economic recovery.

The bill, which passed in a 64-34 vote, cleared the Republican-run House of Representatives last week. It now advances to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.

Obama: Debt showdown would harm economy
House GOP blinks in debt ceiling fight

While the measure suspends Washington's $16.4 trillion debt ceiling through May 19, some budget analysts estimate it will give the U.S. Treasury the ability to meet all federal spending obligations through at least the end of July.

In exchange for temporarily suspending the debt ceiling, the bill requires lawmakers in both chambers of Congress to pass a budget by mid-April or have their pay withheld.

The requirement was added at the insistence of congressional Republicans, who wanted to highlight the failure of Senate Democrats to pass a budget resolution since 2009. Democrats note that such resolutions are not binding, and insist they would have been superseded by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which established budgetary restrictions for the last two fiscal years.

Top Capitol Hill Democrats have been divided over the bill. Some railed against the pay withholding provision -- calling it a political gimmick -- while others supported the measure as a whole because it removes an immediate threat of default and at least temporarily divorces the debt ceiling from GOP spending cut demands.

For their part, top Republicans have essentially conceded that a fight over raising the debt ceiling is not the best political avenue for achieving their twin deficit and spending reduction goals. Most political analysts believe that a 2011 debt ceiling fight, which led to the passage of the Budget Control Act, did not play to the GOP's political advantage.

That partisan fight led to a downgrade in the gold-plated U.S. credit rating and was thought to have slowed the fragile economic recovery.

Beyond the debt ceiling, the House and Senate will be forced to grapple shortly with two other polarizing budget-related deadlines.

If Congress fails to act by March 1, a pending sequester will trigger roughly $1 trillion in new defense and non-defense cuts over the next decade -- cuts generally disliked on both sides of the aisle.

In addition, federal funding for the current fiscal year is currently set to expire on March 27, forcing a government shutdown unless Congress can agree on at least a new temporary spending package.

Jeanne Sahadi and Ted Barrett contributed to this report

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.