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US debt ceiling: Senate passes US budget deal

The Democratic-controlled Senate’s bipartisan compromise won swift approval by 81 votes to 18.

It will now be sent to the House of Representatives, whose Republican leadership has begrudgingly said it will support the measure.

It comes hours before the deadline to raise the $16.7tn (£10.5tn) limit.

President Barack Obama is set to speak shortly at the White House.

The deal would extend the federal borrowing limit until 7 February and fund the government to 15 January.

The bill would also create a panel of Senate and House members to draw up a longer-term budget deal.

Speaking after the vote, Senate Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid said: “Let’s be honest, this is pain inflicted on a nation for no good reason and we cannot, cannot make the same mistake again.” 

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All along Obama has said he would refuse to pay a ransom and it looks, at the time of writing, that his refusal to bargain has paid off”

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image of Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, Sen Reid’s negotiating partner, said earlier that the deal “is far less than many of us hoped for, quite frankly, but far better than what some had sought”.

In a statement, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said “blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us”.

The US Treasury has been using what it has called “extraordinary measures” to pay its bills since the nation reached its current debt limit in May.

It said those methods would be exhausted by 17 October, leaving the US unable to meet all of its debt and other fiscal obligations if the limit was not raised.

Politicians, bankers and economists had warned of dire global economic consequences unless an agreement to raise the US government’s borrowing limit could be reached.

Meanwhile, Ratings firm Standard & Poor’s said on Wednesday that the government shutdown had already taken $24bn (£15bn) out of the US economy and would cut growth significantly in the fourth quarter.

Congressional Republicans triggered the standoff on 1 October when they forced the first partial shutdown in 17 years by demanding that President Obama defund or delay his signature healthcare overhaul.

But under the compromise now being voted on, the law commonly known as Obamacare escapes relatively unscathed.

Congressional Republicans, who have borne the brunt of blame in opinion polls for the budget row, conceded defeat on Wednesday.

“We fought the good fight,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in an interview with an Ohio radio station. “We just didn’t win.”

Meanwhile, the political post-mortem examination has already begun.

“This has been a really bad two weeks for the Republican Party,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said.

Senator John McCain told the Senate floor that the budget standoff had been “one of the more shameful chapters I have seen in the years I have spent here in the Senate”.


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