German lawmakers have cleared the way for an expansion of the size and powers of the euro zone bailout fund, in a major step toward tackling the bloc's sprawling sovereign debt crisis. A clear majority of lawmakers in Germany's lower house of parliament voted today in favor of expanding the fund's capacities in a vote that was also seen as a test of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition. The fund expansion has to be ratified by all 17 euro zone nations to take force, and six more nations must still agree.
The vote itself was proceeded by a lively debate that laid bare how divided Germans remain over their role as Europe's economic motor. "Despite all arguments, the first bailout did not make the situation for Greece better, but worse," said a dissenting lawmaker. "Expanding the fund will make the situation even worse." A Merkel ally countered, "Today we will make an important contribution to our nation, to Europe, and to the stability of the euro." The measure will be put to the upper house of parliament tomorrow, where it is expected to pass. (Read more Germany stories.)