Obama avoids another debt showdown

America has avoided a devastating debt default after the Senate passed laws to allow the government to borrow money.

The vote was a major win for President Barack Obama after years of fiscal battles with Republicans. The relatively smooth passage this time comes as most members of the US Congress face elections in November. Republicans have been less confrontational after a 16-day partial government shutdown last year sent their poll numbers sliding and exposed the influence of party’s extreme tea party faction.

A debt default could have shaken financial markets and increased interest rates.

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The quick action contrasts with the lengthy showdowns last year and in 2012, when Republicans tried to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win block Mr Obama’s policies, particularly health care.

Mr Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit and the latest legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without concessions.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like pension benefits, federal salaries and health care.

The vote exposed sharp divisions within the Republican Party. The leader of the tea party wing, Senator Ted Cruz, tried to use a tactic known as the filibuster to prevent the bill being put to a vote.

That forced Republican leaders worried of a repeat of last year’s block to join Democrats in casting a procedural vote to override it.