Senate overwhelmingly passes debt-limit bill, Obama signs

Amanda Carey | Contributor

BREAKING UPDATE: President Obama has signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 into law.

The U.S. Senate passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 Tuesday in a noon vote on Capitol Hill, by a final count of 74–26. Twenty-eight Republicans voted in favor of the legislation, while 19 voted “no.”

On the other side, 45 Democratic Senators voted “yes” while six opposed the measure.

Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted “yes” and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont voted against the bill.

This followed a dramatic vote last night in the House Representatives. The debt-ceiling vote, which passed overwhelmingly, was overshadowed by a surprise visit from Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona.

Giffords’ visit was the first since the failed January attempt on her life.

The new law cuts about $2.4 trillion in federal spending over ten years. It was not without Senate opposition.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, for example, did not filibuster the vote though he did vote “no.” Other Tea Party favorites followed, including Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Lee spoke form the floor about 30 minutes before the vote, assailing the last-minute legislation and saying “it was not even allowed its day in the U.S. Senate to be debated.”

He then urged his colleagues in the House and Senate to agree not to raise the debt limit again without a Balanced Budget Amendment in place.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ranking Member on the Senate Budget Committee, announced on the floor of the Senate Monday night that he, too, would vote “no.” Sessions cited insufficient spending cuts, problems with the Joint Committee charged with overseeing a second round of spending cuts, and the overall negotiation process.

I feel like, as a Senator and the Ranking Member on the Budget Committee who’s wrestled with this for some time, I would not be able to support the legislation,” said Sessions. “Though, I truly believe it is a step forward, and I respect my colleagues who’ve worked hard to try to bring it forward.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell played an instrumental role in weekend negotiations with the Obama administration. Those talks produced the compromise bill which, since its release Sunday, has angered both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans on ideological grounds.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signed off on the measure later that night, it all but guaranteed enough votes for passage.

But on the floor right before the vote, which wrapped up at about 12:45 p.m. in front of a packed audience in the gallery, Reid himself criticized the deal he had previously approved. “The American people are not impressed with ‘no revenues,’” he said, adding that the “tax cuts are on borrowed money.”

Reid added that the new Tea Party faction’s direction in Congress is “very disconcerting.”

McConnell also spoke from the Senate floor, saying the President Obama and the Majority Leader “can’t just bring about change on a dime, as much as they would like to.”

Democrats, he added, are “afraid the American people might actually win the debate we’ve been having around here about the size and scope of government.”

While McConnell noted the bill is “not the deficit reduction package I would have written,” but did say it is a “first step” toward fiscal sanity.

Watch Raw video: Senate passes debt ceiling bill:

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