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Senate Vote Sets Up Debt Limit Hike

Updated: 1:03 p.m.

The Senate today declined to take up a resolution disapproving a debt limit increase of $1.2 trillion.

As part of an agreement struck between President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders in August, both chambers were given the opportunity to register their opposition to debt ceiling increases. If the Senate had decided to take up the measure, the president could have vetoed it. But because they will not vote on the actual resolution, Obama now has the power to extend the country’s borrowing authority. The House approved the resolution of disapproval last week.

The Senate’s 44-52 vote was largely a political exercise designed to allow Members to vote against a politically unpopular debt increase, while ensuring the country does not actually default on its debt.

Two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) — voted with all but one Republican to take up the resolution. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was the lone Republican to vote with Democrats to prevent the measure from coming up.

Some Senators used the symbolic vote to speak their case for deficit reduction.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the bipartisan budget “gang of six,” took to the floor to repeat his push for a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes both “spending cuts and revenue enhancements that will not hurt the economy.”

August’s Budget Control Act also cut about $2.2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, including a $1 trillion mandatory across-the-board discretionary cut that was triggered by the failure of the deficit reduction super committee to reach a deal in November.

The across-the-board cuts include more than $500 billion in defense spending cuts that are highly unpopular, especially with Republicans, who have vowed to roll them back. To do so, they’d have to find another way to reduce the deficit by that amount. Democrats have said they will no longer consider a cuts-only approach, while Republicans have only demonstrated a willingness to adopt modest revenue measures that were rebuffed by Democrats in the fall.

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