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After Tense Vote, Senate OKs Debt Limit Extension

The Senate has sent an extension of the debt limit to President Barack Obama's desk.

In a rare hour-long vote, the Senate cleared a final procedural hurdle Wednesday to advance the vote, as Republicans scrambled to find enough support to keep the legislation alive. Final passage came swiftly after the first key vote was complete.

The 67-31 vote advanced a measure to extend the debt limit until March 2015, providing a year of relief from a fiscal fight that could have rattled markets and further worsened bitter relations between Republicans and Democrats.

Twelve Republicans -- including top GOPers Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- voted with Democrats to overcome the 60 vote threshold. Leaders held the vote open for almost one hour as Democrats scrambled for enough Republican votes to keep the measure alive; McConnell and Cornyn's votes helped to push the vote to completion.

Both Cornyn and McConnell face GOP primary challenges this year.

The final vote to pass the bill, requiring just a simple majority, was 55-43. Senators raced to avoid a looming snowstorm and head back to their home states.

After intense intraparty debate, House Republican leaders allowed passage of the “clean” debt limit bill – one that attached no wish-list policy provisions – Tuesday night.

That legislation passed the GOP-controlled House with the support of 28 Republicans and all but two Democrats.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who held forth on the Senate floor last year with a filibuster-style speech in protest of fiscal issues, demanded that the legislation overcome the 60-vote threshold rather than pass with a simple majority.