In a slim vote of 60-40, the Senate approved legislation allowing the government to increase its debt by $1.9 trillion. The fate of the bill might have been different if newly elected Scott Brown (R) had taken his seat in the Senate. However, for now the Democrats still have a supermajority and were able to get the legislation passed.
The measure would put the government on track for a national debt of $14.3 trillion - about $45,000 for every American - and it served as a vivid reminder of the United States' dire fiscal straits.
The massive increase in the debt limit would allow majority Democrats to avoid another vote until after the midterm elections this fall. New estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday show that the U.S. this year could run a deficit matching last year's record $1.4 trillion shortfall.
To win the votes of moderate Democrats, President Barack Obama promised to appoint a special task force to come up with a plan for dealing with the spiraling debt.