Congress OKs $290 Billion More in Government Debt

BY Chris Amico  December 24, 2009 at 1:13 PM EDT

The government will have another $290 billion to last it through February after the Senate voted today to raise the federal debt ceiling to around $12.4 trillion.

The Treasury Department had warned the government would run out of cash if Congress did not authorize more borrowing before Dec. 31. Congress last raised the debt limit in February as part of the fiscal stimulus bill.

The party-line vote was tucked in behind the much-anticipated health reform roll call and proved nearly as polarizing. All but one Democrat — Evan Bayh of Indiana — voted for the measure, and George Voinovich of Ohio, a retiring centrist, was the only Republican to support raising the cap.

With Senate passage, the bill moves to President Obama’s desk for his signature. A likewise divided House of Representatives [voted last week](http://www.upi.com/Daily-Briefing/2009/12/17/US-debt-ceiling-raised/UPI-19821261058769/) to raise the debt limit by the same amount. Bureau of the Public Debt data [show](http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/govt.htm) that government debt subject to the current $12.1 trillion limit stands at $12.04 trillion as of today. Here’s a look at how government debt has grown since August: > debt.png
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> *Chart courtesy of the [Bureau of Public Debt](http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/govt.htm). The debt limit shown (orange line) was set to $12.1 trillion in February.* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [originally wanted][wp] to push the debt limit far higher as part of a defense appropriations bill, but she backed off last week. Total U.S. debt has more than doubled this decade, from around $5.6 trillion in 2000 to just over $12 trillion now, according to the [Bureau of the Public Debt][bpd]. [wp]: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/14/AR2009121403933.html “House Democrats discard larger debt limit”
[bpd]: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPDLogin?application=np “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It”