The Senate at ENR press time neared a vote on a House-approved measure allowing the U.S. to exceed its $16.4-trillion debt limit until May 18. If enacted, the bill would avert a financial crisis—temporarily.

On Jan. 14, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner notified Congress that between mid-February and early March, Treasury would exhaust interim steps to avoid default on the country's obligations.

The bill the House cleared on Jan. 23 doesn't specify a new debt-ceiling level but lets the U.S. incur debt needed to pay bills. It also requires lawmakers to pass budget measures by April 15 or have their pay put in escrow.