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House Approves Bill To Raise Federal Debt Limit

The House vote on raising the debt ceiling drew the interest of passers-by in New York. The bill will now head to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it Tuesday.
Andrew Burton
Getty Images
The House vote on raising the debt ceiling drew the interest of passers-by in New York. The bill will now head to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it Tuesday.

The House of Representatives has approved legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling and prevent a possible U.S. default, as the nation moves toward ending a bitter standoff.

The bill passed by a vote of 269 to 161; it required only a simple majority to pass.

A loud round of applause broke out on the House floor as the votes came in — apparently prompted by the sudden appearance of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who voted in favor of the bill.

The House last week approved Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the U.S. government's debt ceiling by a vote of 218 to 210. The Senate rejected that plan. The White House and congressional leaders agreed on a new plan late Sunday.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which isn't likely to vote on the measure until Tuesday, according to reports. Senate party leaders who negotiated the deal with the White House seem to have the votes to approve it, but there are also procedural hurdles that must be taken into account.

Here are the essential details of the plan:

  • Allows the $14.3 trillion borrowing cap to rise by up to $2.4 trillion — enough to keep the government afloat through the 2012 elections.
  • Includes $900 billion in savings from 10-year discretionary spending caps on defense and non-defense programs.
  • Calls for a bipartisan committee of six Republicans and six Democrats to identify $1.5 trillion in additional cuts no later than Nov. 23. The cuts could come from defense spending or entitlement programs such as Social Security. Congress must act on the recommendations by Dec. 23 to avoid triggering $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board reductions over 10 years.
  • If Congress fails to act, the automatic cuts would spare Social Security, Medicaid, veterans and civilian and military pay. But Medicare would not be exempt, according to Boehner.
  • Moments before the final vote on the bill, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to support it, despite admitting that she didn't like the bill's lack of revenue increases.

    And Boehner urged his fellow Republicans to vote for the deal as well, saying earlier Monday that the legislation is a way to "solve this debt crisis and help get the American people back to work."

    As Eyder wrote in a post earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office has released its "score" of the deal. In summary, the CBO said that the legislation's budget restraints would cut budget deficits by $917 billion between 2012 and 2021. And its spending cuts would reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

    Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog has his own analysis of the bill. Silver says it's correct to see the outcome of spending cuts and no tax hikes as a "win" for Republicans. Then he goes a little deeper:

    But given that Democrats were willing to accede to the constraints demanded by Republicans, they were able to exert a lot of control over the substance of the cuts. In particular, the first round of cuts will include $350 billion in defense savings, while the second round would include between $500 and $600 billion in defense cuts if no bipartisan agreement is reached.

    We'll have more updates as things evolve. And on Tuesday's Morning Edition, you can hear coverage and analysis of the federal debt ceiling debate — and its resolution. In the meantime, you may want to distract yourself by hearing Carl '60 Cent' Kassell rap about the debt crisis. Here's a sample:

    The credit rating agencies

    Weren't feeling it at all

    If we couldn't get a deal

    Our rating would fall.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.