With a snowstorm bearing down on the capital, it approved a House-passed measure that allows the government to borrow more money to pay its bills through March 2015.
The White House signaled that President Barack Obama would sign the legislation, so the Senate vote was the last hurdle to resolving the debt-ceiling issue until after the November congressional elections.
Wednesday’s votes were a blow to tea party conservatives who oppose any kind of increase in federal borrowing.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a leader of the GOP tea party wing, mounted a filibuster to force a 60-vote threshold for proceeding on the measure.
However, about a dozen of Republicans joined Democrats to overcome the filibuster on a 67-31 procedural vote that avoided another politically damaging legislative impasse over spending.
The Democratic-controlled Senate then gave final approval by a 55-43 margin, with Republicans who voted to overcome the filibuster opposing the measure to reduce their political risk.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said last week the debt ceiling must be raised by February 27, or the nation would risk a technical default.
On Tuesday, the GOP-controlled House passed the debt-ceiling measure on a 221-201 vote, with only 28 Republicans supporting it compared to the 199 who opposed it. Meanwhile, 193 Democrats backed the measure with only two voting “no.”
The House vote followed an internal Republican fight over efforts to attach deficit reduction provisions to the debt-limit legislation.
Obama and Democrats rejected any attempt to negotiate on the issue, which previously led to political brinkmanship that caused the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating in 2011.
In the end, House Speaker John Boehner gave up efforts to link the measure to a provision repealing a cut in some military pension benefits. The Ohio Republican allowed a vote on a “clean” bill demanded by Democrats and despised by conservatives.
The shift by Boehner evoked rare praise for the speaker from the Senate’s top Democrat.
“It is encouraging that some of my Republican colleagues seem to be regaining their grip on sanity this week,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday before the Senate vote.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the House vote “a positive step in moving away from the political brinkmanship that’s a needless drag on our economy.”