Treasury secretary: Debt limit rise will promote economic growth

Feb. 12, 2014 at 7:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Wednesday's Senate vote to raise the federal debt limit will promote growth and help "provide certainty and stability."

The Senate voted 55-43 along party lines to approve a bill extending the federal debt limit for one year. The measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

"We welcome the news that Congress has acted to meet its responsibility to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by extending the nation's debt limit," Lew said in a statement. "This week's action combined with the two-year budget agreement and the omnibus spending bill -- all of which passed Congress with bipartisan majorities -- will provide certainty and stability to businesses and financial markets and should add momentum to the economic growth forecasted in 2014."

Lew said the administration is "eager to continue to partner with Congress on these efforts on behalf of the American people."

Earlier Wednesday, senators voted to end a filibuster on the measure, with two top Republicans voting for the measure.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted "aye" in the cliffhanger cloture vote, Roll Call reported. The two voted for the measure when the count briefly appeared short of the 60 votes needed.

McConnell's support was notable, the Hill newspaper said, because he is seen as vulnerable to Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin.

The Senate voted 67-31 to end a filibuster by a Tea Party favorite, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Roll Call said the vote took nearly an hour to complete as senators tried to decide how they would vote.

Afterward, the Senate proceeded to a vote on final passage requiring a simple majority.

Roll Call said a dozen Republicans voted with Democrats, most in a group after McConnell and Cornyn led the way. Those GOP senators voting for the measure included John Barrasso of Wyoming, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Thune of South Dakota, the newspaper said.

In threatening a filibuster, Cruz had argued Republicans should extract spending cuts from Democrats and the White House, with McConnell privately arguing against another shutdown showdown, the report said.

Earlier, supporters of raising the federal debt limit without conditions said they were struggling to find enough Senate Republicans to overcome a GOP filibuster.

The vote came 15 days before a Feb. 27 deadline Lew had set for Congress to increase the Treasury's borrowing authority or risk a U.S. default on more than $17 trillion in federal debt.

A snowstorm was expected to hit Washington late Wednesday, a day before Congress is to start a 13-day recess.

Many lawmakers want to leave Washington ahead of the storm, their aides said.

"I'd prefer to get something for it," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the Hill before the vote. "This is not going the way I would like it to."

"Am I going to vote for it? Hell no!" Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. "Isn't there some middle ground between defaulting on our debt and doing nothing to address our fiscal problems?"

The Senate vote follows a House vote to suspend the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, with no conditions.

The 221-201 vote Tuesday followed a capitulation by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who had led a fight to require any debt-ceiling increase be paired with spending cuts of equal size or with other conservative policy demands.

He told reporters Tuesday he couldn't assemble the needed 218 GOP votes to pass a bill containing his latest bid, which would have linked the debt increase to the restoration of some military pensions.

"It's a disappointing moment," Boehner told reporters before the House vote. "This is a lost opportunity," he said.

As he left the podium, Boehner started singing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

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