Senate sends debt measure to Obama

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday sent President Obama legislation suspending the government’s statutory borrowing limit until May, accepting a House Republican demand that Senate Democrats produce a budget plan this spring in exchange for a debt limit reprieve that included no spending cuts.

The 64-to-34 vote ended for now a showdown that had threatened the full faith and credit of the US government. The Treasury Department has been shuffling federal accounts for a month to make sure it could pay interest to its creditors even after the government officially breached its borrowing limit. By mid-February, the Obama administration warned, the Treasury would have exhausted such ‘‘extraordinary measures’’ and would have been forced to default for the first time.

The deal ‘‘sets an important precedent,’’ said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, ‘‘that the full faith and credit of the United States will no longer be used as a pawn to extract painful cuts to Medicare, Social Security, or other initiatives that benefit the middle class. A clean debt ceiling increase that allows the United States to meet its existing obligations should be the standard.’’


The legislation, written by House Republican leaders, passed the House last week 285 to 144, with most Republicans voting for it. In the Senate, most Republicans — and Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat — voted no.

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Reid’s hope for an end to such showdowns on the debt ceiling may prove to be too optimistic.

The next budget fight will come March 1, when across-the-board military and domestic spending cuts totaling $1 trillion over 10 years would begin to go into force. House Republicans say they would entertain proposals to shift those cuts to other programs but will not back down on the spending reduction.