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US Senate votes to raise debt ceiling

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Thursday approved a measure raising the federal borrowing limit by $290 billion. The bill was passed pursuant to recommendations by officials at the US Treasury Department [official website] that additional funding was necessary to continue government operations. HR 4314 [LOC materials], which passed 60-39 [roll call], amends 31 USC § 3101 [text] to authorize the federal government to hold a total of $12.4 trillion in public debt, an increase from the previous $12.1 trillion. The amount represents the sum necessary to fund continuing government operations until February. The bill, introduced on December 15, received House approval the following day before being presented to the Senate. US President Barack Obama [official profile] must sign the legislation before it takes effect.

The bill does not disburse funds for government operations, but formalizes [WSJ report] debt obligations already incurred by the federal government. Debate [NYT report] over increasing the debt ceiling has reflected a continuing partisan divide over federal fiscal policy, echoing deliberation over a health care reform bill [JURIST report], which also passed Thursday in the Senate. The increase will be the fourth in 18 months [Business Week report] and will augment $5.4 trillion [NYT report] in debt ceiling increases passed under former President George W. Bush [official profile].

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