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Thursday, February 13, 2014

GOP leaders help Senate pass large increase in debt limit -- By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times

**FILE** Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by GOP leaders, talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, prior to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. From left are, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the Republican Policy Committee chairman; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; and and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Democrats see opening with fractured minority

Congress approved a massive increase in the federal debt Wednesday, but only after Republican leaders linked arms and jumped together, helping Democrats pass a plan that will let President Obama borrow as much money as needed to cover federal obligations over the next 13 months.

The vote was about as dramatic as they get. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, held out for 40 minutes before casting the key vote to break his fellow Republicans' filibuster. His top lieutenants then followed suit, clearing the way for a final vote to approve the debt ceiling increase.

The bill passed the House on Tuesday. It now goes to Mr. Obama, who is expected to sign it.

Democrats warned of disastrous consequences if the limit hadn't been raised, saying the government would default on its obligations. Analysts said a failure would have been devastating for the stock market, which was closely watching the vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he hoped the fact that Republicans approved a debt increase would be a breakthrough for other issues.

"Congress should be striding from accomplishment to accomplishment, not staggering from crisis to crisis," he said. "If we spent more time working together and less time running out the clock on procedural hurdles and Republican filibusters, we might actually get things done around here."

But Republicans who opposed the debt limit increase said it marked a low point for Congress and for their party in particular, which could have blocked the increase if the party's lawmakers held together.

"Let's be clear about the motive behind this vote — there are too many members of Congress who think they can fool people and they will forget about it the next week," said Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who led the attempted filibuster. "But sometimes, come November, the people remember."

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