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Senators Punt Debt-Ceiling Issue Into 2010

The Senate early Thursday morning passed a two-month, $290 billion extension to the federal debt limit, averting a potential financial crisis that would have occurred had the limit expired Jan. 31.The Senate passed the extension by a 60-39 vote, with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) voting against the measure and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) voting for it. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) – who is retiring after next year – had already fled Washington, D.C., for the year and did not vote. 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has been hospitalized several times this year and is confined to a wheelchair, did vote.When the Senate returns to the debt-limit issue next month, Republicans will offer a series of amendments to a long-term extension — a rescissions package by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a set of spending caps proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) sunsetting the Troubled Asset Relief Program, an amendment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and a fiscal task force amendment by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Reid will also offer a pay-as-you-go budgeting amendment.Aside from a package of noncontroversial nominations and other housekeeping issues, the debt-limit extension was the last major piece of work left for the Senate this year, capping a marathon 25-day stretch of days in legislative session — second most in the Senate’s history.

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