Senate on track to raise debt limit, send to White House

WASHINGTON -- Congress was poised to give final approval Wednesday to legislation allowing more federal borrowing to pay the nation's bills, ending the last three years of partisan brinkmanship over the debt limit, but not without a last-minute protest led by tea party Republicans in the Senate.

Overcoming a crucial hurdle, the Senate voted 67 to 31 to advance the bill, overcoming a filibuster by hard-line Republicans. The Senate is now expected to easily pass the bill on the final vote.

The bill had been swiftly approved by the House this week, in a turnaround for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who risked calls for his ouster after he abandoned his majority to rely mostly on Democrats to pass the bill.

President Obama is expected to quickly sign the legislation after final appoval, well ahead of the Feb. 27 deadline set by the Treasury Department, which had said it would run out of money by then to pay debts.

Even as public concern over the nation's $17.3-trillion debt has faded from its peak a few years ago, Wednesday's vote was not without a final fight as the tea party wing attempted to prevent more borrowing.

Defying GOP leaders, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas led a divisive campaign to block the bill with a filibuster, putting pressure on fellow Republicans to help carry the vote with Democrats, who have a 55-vote working majority. A 60-vote threshold is needed to break the filibuster.

"There was a division in our conference," said Sen. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), who supports the legislation. "I just want the orderly administration of U.S. debt, as few market disruptions as possible."

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