Susan Davis, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate approved a bill, 64-34, that would suspend the nation's borrowing authority through May 18. The measure, already approved by the House, will be sent to President Obama, who has pledged to sign it into law.
The short-term extension of the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling would ensure the United States would not default on its legal obligations and buy Congress more time to negotiate on upcoming budget fights.
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates the amount of the debt limit increase will be about $450 billion.
The bill, initiated by House Republicans, also includes a provision that would require the House and Senate to pass a federal budget in their respective chamber by April 15 or lawmakers' salaries would be held in escrow until a budget is passed or the Congress ends in two years. The "no budget, no pay" provision has bipartisan support, although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has dismissed it as a "gimmick."
Congress faces two additional deadlines. On March 1, across-the-board spending cuts affecting defense and social programs kick in after a two-month delay agreed to in the year-end "fiscal cliff" deal. On March 27, the funding for the government will run out, raising the risk of another shutdown fight.
Congress is preparing for the annual budget process. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has pledged a blueprint that will balance the budget in 10 years. Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., has pledged the Senate will pass a budget this year - the first since 2009.