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Senate passes debt limit bill for Obama

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) returns to his office after a vote to raise the debt ceiling at the U.S. Capitol in Washington February 12, 2014. Legislation to extend U.S. federal borrowing authority for a year cleared a critical procedural hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday, moving the measure to a final vote. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills has cleared Congress for President Barack Obama's signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the "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 group of Republicans were clearly reluctant to walk the plank. Several other Republicans then switched their votes in solidarity.