Congress can breathe for another few months. It just pushed back another deadline.
The Senate has passed a three-month suspension of the nation's borrowing limit, avoiding, for a few months, a nasty and drawn-out fight over the debt ceiling that has plagued Congress in the past as the deadline neared.
The bill was passed by a vote of 64-34.
The three-month extension simply puts off the fight for another day and temporarily suspends the statutory debt limit through May 18, granting the Treasury Department the additional borrowing authority to meet obligations that require payment over the next three months.
Without congressional action, the Treasury Department warned, its borrowing authority would have run out by mid-February.
The three-month extension of the debt limit pressures lawmakers to adopt a budget or have its members' congressional pay withheld.
The bill, known as the No Budget No Pay Act of 2013, directs both chambers of Congress to adopt a budget resolution for fiscal year 2014 by April 15 of this year. If either body fails to pass a budget, members of that body would have their paychecks put into an escrow account starting on April 16 until that body adopts a budget. Any pay that is withheld would eventually be released at the end of the current Congress, even if a budget doesn't ever pass.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted against the three-month extension today, noting that Senate Republicans' amendments to the bill aimed at cutting government spending were all defeated.
"What's needed now is a long-term solution to Washington's out-of-control spending and debt," a McConnell spokesman said after the vote today. "Senate Democrats should get to work on that solution now, rather than waiting until the last minute to do the work the American people elected them to do."
The bill passed in the Republican-led House of Representatives last week and was quickly ushered over to the Senate. With this final passage today, the bill will be sent to President Obama's desk for his signature. The White House has said that President Obama would have preferred a longer-term solution but is anticipated to sign the legislation into law.