After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress today for President Obama's signature. The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of those "aye" votes came from Obama's Democratic allies. But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally— held open for more than an hour—in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate's top two Republicans—both facing Tea Party challenges in their GOP primaries this year—provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.
After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn voted "aye," several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance, but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes. Cruz's demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. Asked about McConnell, Cruz said, "That is ultimately a decision ... for the voters of Kentucky." Senate passage came a day after House Republicans opted to pass a "clean bill" without demanding concessions. (Read more debt ceiling stories.)