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Debt-ceiling bill clears House. Now, hopes that Round 2 will be better.

With the House passing a debt-ceiling bill Monday, an end to the debt crisis is in sight. But more cutting lies ahead, and both sides are hopeful they'll get more of what they want.

By Staff writer / August 1, 2011

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona (c.) appears on the floor of the House of Representatives Monday in Washington. Giffords was on the floor for the first time since her shooting earlier this year, casting her vote on the debt-ceiling compromise.

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In a vote laced with surprises, the House passed a controversial plan to add more than $2 trillion to the nation’s debt limit, just a day before the nation was to lose its capacity to borrow.

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The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass in a vote beginning at noon on Tuesday. President Obama says he will sign it by sundown, avoiding the first-ever default on the full faith and credit of the United States.

But the cheers that rang through the House chamber during the vote were not for the debt deal, which was highly unpopular on both sides of the aisle, but for the surprise appearance of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona, whose recovery from an assassination attempt on Jan. 8 inspired her House colleagues and the nation.

“I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics,” she said in a statement. “I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”

In the end, 95 Democrats, including Congresswoman Giffords, joined 174 Republicans to pass the compromise bill, whose fate appeared to be in doubt right up until the final vote. The Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus both opposed the measure, citing harm to working families and the poor from some of the expected spending cuts.

But both sides won their way to the compromise with a modest claim: It's a start.

'A solid first step'

Republicans held out hope that entitlement reform would be next on the agenda, both for a new congressional committee tasked with identifying $1.2 trillion more in cuts and beyond. Meanwhile, Democrats hoped that taxes on the wealthy could be part of a second wave of deficit cutting.

“I would like to say this bill solves our problem. It doesn’t. It’s a solid first step,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas, the House Republican Conference chairman, during Monday’s floor debate.

“Although not perfect, [it] will begin to change the culture here in Washington,” said House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia at a press briefing before the final vote.

“Beginning to take steps toward fixing our fiscal problems will in fact provide more confidence for employers in America,” said Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio at the briefing.

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