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Senate rejects House debt bill

Photo by Anonymous

Photo by Anonymous

In an unforgiving display of partisanship, the House approved emergency legislation Friday night to avoid an unprecedented government default and the Senate scuttled it less than two hours later.

The final outcome -- with the White House and Senate Democrats calling anew for compromise while criticizing Republicans as Tuesday's deadline drew near -- was anything but certain.

''We are almost out of time'' for a compromise, warned President Barack Obama as U.S. financial markets trembled at the prospect of economic chaos next week. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down for a sixth straight session.

The House vote was 218-210, almost entirely along party lines, on a Republican-drafted bill to provide a quick $900 billion increase in U.S. borrowing authority -- essential to allow the government to continue paying all its bills -- along with $917 billion in cuts from federal spending.

It had been rewritten hastily overnight to say that before any additional increase in the debt limit could take place, Congress must approve a balanced budget-amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification. That marked a concession to tea party-backed conservatives and others in the rank and file who had thwarted House Speaker John Boehner's attempt to pass the bill Thursday night.

But the changes he made to the House GOP bill further alienated Democrats. And they complicated prospects of a compromise that could clear both houses and win Obama's signature by next Tuesday's deadline.

At the other end of the Capitol, Senate Democrats scuttled the measure without so much as a debate on its merits. The vote was 59-41, with all Democrats, two independents and six Republicans joining in opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had an alternative measure to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion, enough to meet Obama's terms that it tide the Treasury over until 2013.