Senate Dems Hike Debt Limit by $1.9 Trillion

Senate Democrats, standing alone, took a very tough vote on Thursday to increase the nation's credit card limit, called "the debt ceiling," by $1.9 trillion. It was a straight party-line, 60 to 40.

Democrats were determined to increase the limit by enough to carry them through the midterm elections in November. Republicans wanted quite the opposite --- to have smaller increments voted on throughout the year.

Perhaps one bit of comfort for Democrats in tough re-election fights, particularly those in red states like Evan Bayh of Indiana, Democrats were able to get what's called "pay as you go" rules passed.

This budgetary mechanism attempts to mandate that Congress live within annual spending caps, but already, Democrats have exempted some very costly items: the Medicare doctor fix (10-year cost of more than $200 billion), the AMT fix, and other expiring tax cuts.

If members bust through these caps, automatic cuts would be made to some programs like Medicare and pensions for veterans.

The House now has to pass this bill before it can be signed by the President.

Congress had until mid-February to increase the limit before the nation started to default on its debts.