The vote for the measure was 59–35, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats in favor of the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was among those in favor. Prior to that, 14 Republicans sided with Democrats to end debate to advance the bill.
The legislation would enable the Senate to pass a second, separate bill to increase the debt ceiling by a specific amount with a simple majority, instead of needing 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to overcome a filibuster. Democrats would be able to use their majority to pass the debt ceiling increase without support from Republicans.
The provision to enable the simple majority vote was combined on Tuesday with an unrelated provision that would prevent Medicare payment cuts to health care providers.
The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
“I’m pleased we were able to facilitate a process with the supportive members from both parties that avoids needless and catastrophic default,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a speech after the vote on the measure. “This was a bipartisan process, and I hope there can be more and I want to thank Leader McConnell for working with us in good faith to get to this point.”
Republicans complained privately and on the Senate floor about the deal. While they will not have to vote to support the debt limit increase, they opened the way for the Senate to advance to the final vote.
“A deal has been made to give us—some of us see it this way anyway—a choice between voting for a heart attack or cancer,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) who voted against advancing the plan.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said supporting the measure “was the right thing to do because the last thing in the world that this country needs is a default.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said he voted no because “[Democrats] have been spending money on a partisan basis without input from Republicans,” adding, “So they have the obligation to increase the debt ceiling at this point.”
It comes after the House passed the legislation in a 222–212 vote, with only one Republican joining all Democrats in supporting the measure.
Congress in October voted to increase the debt limit by $480 billion, lifting it from $28.4 trillion to $28.9 trillion. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that the current debt limit was enough for the Treasury Department to finance the government’s operations through Dec. 15.
The specific amount by which the debt ceiling will be raised has not been disclosed. However, final votes on the second, debt-limit implementing bill are expected in the Senate and House by Dec. 14.
A failure to suspend or lift the debt ceiling would lead to an unprecedented default that would allow the government to pay its bills only with the cash that comes into the Treasury.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.