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The U.S. Senate has crossed the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the last-minute compromise plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts.

Once the Senate finishes voting, the bill goes to President Barack Obama‘s desk to be signed into law — just hours before what would have been an unprecedented default. Voting is still under way, but the bill has received 60 votes, ensuring its passage.

The bill imposes sweeping new spending cuts over the next decade.

The measure was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday by a 269-161 vote, overcoming opposition from unhappy liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans.

If the current $14.3 trillion debt limit is not increased by the end of the day, Americans could face rapidly rising interest rates, a falling dollar and shakier financial markets, among other problems.

Regardless, the federal government could still face a credit rating downgrade.

The agreement — reached Sunday by Obama and congressional leaders from both parties — calls for up to $2.4 trillion in savings over the next decade, raises the debt ceiling through the end of 2012 and establishes a special congressional committee to recommend long-term fiscal reforms.

Emotions ran high during the final debates on Capitol Hill. Numerous Republicans remain worried about cuts in defense spending and the lack of a required balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. Progressive Democrats are livid over the extent of the deal’s domestic spending cuts, as well as the absence of any immediate tax hikes on high-income Americans.

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article courtesy of CNN.com

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