Congress extends government borrowing for another year


WASHINGTON — Congress agreed to extend the federal government’s borrowing authority for another year Wednesday, avoiding another ugly partisan showdown over the federal debt limit.

The Senate voted 55-43 on Wednesday along party lines to suspend the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, which will allow the U.S. Treasury to borrow beyond the $17.3 trillion limit now on the books. The House adopted the measure Tuesday, 221-201.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted in favor of extending the limit. Opposing it were: Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle; Steve Womack, R-Rogers; Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock; and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the passage of the extension without a protracted and bitter debate was “the right thing to do” for the nation’s economic outlook.

“It is encouraging that some of my Republicans colleagues seem to be regaining their grip on sanity this week,” he said. “A few reasonable House Republicans were willing to join Democrats to avert a catastrophic default on this nation’s obligations, a default that would have thrown our economy into a tailspin and damaged this nation’s standing in the world.”

House Republicans have been loath to approve extensions of the debt ceiling with no strings attached but GOP leaders worried that voters would not stand for another battle that could put the nation on the brink of default.

Public opinion was soundly against a Republican effort to defund the Affordable Care Act when it caused the government to shut down for 16 days.

“Last year, we saw an irresponsible few bring our country to a grinding halt, putting our economy and our credit rating at risk. We can’t let that happen again,” Pryor said. “This bill will prevent our nation from defaulting on our obligations while giving our families, businesses and markets the certainty they need.”

Arkansas Republicans in the delegation said it was irresponsible to extend the debt ceiling without additional efforts to curb spending.

“Failing to raise the debt ceiling has extremely serious consequences, but raising it without making a single spending reform is equally as irresponsible, and that’s what this vote was,” Womack said.

The federal government holds $17.2 trillion in debt, and the Treasury said that it would no longer be able to borrow to pay government bills after Feb. 27 without an extension of the debt ceiling.