President Barack Obama signed a compromise debt-ceiling deal into law Tuesday afternoon in a closed-door ceremony at the White House, calling the legislation "an important first step for ensuring that as a nation we don't live beyond our means."
The emergency plan to allow the U.S. government to borrow more money passed in the Senate on Tuesday, just hours before the deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling and avert a potentially disastrous government default expired.
Obama, speaking to reporters after the Senate vote, said the bill was the outcome of a "long and contentious debate" to avoid an economic disaster that created "unsettling" economic uncertainty, CBS News reports. Votes chose a divided government, but "they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government," he added
"It shouldn't take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to get together and do their jobs," Obama said. "Our economy didn't need Washington to come along with a manufactured crisis to make things worse."
The debt-ceiling legislation, which easily passed the House on Monday, 269 votes to 161, was approved in the Senate by 74 votes to 26, CNN reports. The bill required 60 votes to pass.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had returned to the House of Representatives in an emotional appearance to vote on the debt-ceiling compromise.
(GlobalPost Opinion: Raising the debt ceiling will do nothing to solve America's real problems)
The bill will "bring an anticlimactic end to a months-long battle that featured closed-door negotiations, a half-dozen dueling plans, market worries, and the risk that the United States would for the first time ever default on its debt," the Atlantic writes.
The legislation gives Obama the authority to raise to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by at least $2.1 trillion spread over 10 years in exchange for budget cuts, most of which are to be developed by a special congressional committee.
"I believe that we could have made the tough choices required — on entitlement reform and tax reform — right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process,'' Obama said, USA Today reports. "But this compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need, and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year."
The AP quoted Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as saying: "I'm not happy with it, but I'm proud of some of the accomplishments in it. That's why I'm voting for it."
According to the AP:
Its passage caps a long, difficult battle between tea party-powered House Republicans and Obama — with House Speaker John Boehner caught in the middle more than once.
The compromise deal was agreed Sunday night, after weeks of angry debate and brinkmanship between Democrats and Republicans, with a phone call from Boehner to Obama.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, meantime, told ABC News that the contentious battle over the debt limit and the threat of default had damaged confidence in the economy and that credit rating agencies would "take a careful look" at whether lawmakers have the will to reduce deficits.