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House Approves Bill To Raise Federal Debt Limit

The House of Representatives has approved legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling and prevent a possible U.S. default, as the nation moves toward ending a bitter standoff.

The bill passed by a vote of 269 to 161; it required only a simple majority to pass.

A loud round of applause broke out on the House floor as the votes came in — apparently prompted by the sudden appearance of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The House last week approved Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the U.S. government's debt ceiling by a vote of 218 to 210. The Senate rejected that plan. The White House and congressional leaders agreed on a new plan late Sunday.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which isn't likely to vote on the measure until Tuesday, according to reports. Senate party leaders who negotiated the deal with the White House seem to have the votes to approve it, but there are also procedural hurdles that must be taken into account.

Here are the essential details of the plan:

Allows the $14.3 trillion borrowing cap to rise by up to $2.4 trillion — enough to keep the government afloat through the 2012 elections.

Includes $900 billion in savings from 10-year discretionary spending caps on defense and non-defense programs.

Calls for a bipartisan committee of six Republicans and six Democrats to identify $1.5 trillion in additional cuts no later than Nov. 23. The cuts could come from defense spending or entitlement programs such as Social Security. Congress must act on the recommendations by Dec. 23 to avoid triggering $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board reductions over 10 years.

If Congress fails to act, the automatic cuts would spare Social Security, Medicaid, veterans and civilian and military pay. But Medicare would not be exempt, according to Boehner.

Moments before the final vote on the bill, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to support it, despite admitting that she didn't like the bill's lack of revenue increases.

And Boehner urged his fellow Republicans to vote for the deal as well, saying earlier Monday that the legislation is a way to "solve this debt crisis and help get the American people back to work."

As Eyder wrote in a post earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office has released its "score" of the deal. In summary, the CBO said that the legislation's budget restraints would cut budget deficits by $917 billion between 2012 and 2021. And its spending cuts would reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

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