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The Republic Is Saved; Obama Signs Debt-Ceiling Bill

Updated from 12:51 p.m. EDT with comments from President Barack Obama

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- President Obama signed legislation passed by the Senate on Tuesday afternoon to increase the nation's debt ceiling.

The House of Representatives had approved the same bill Monday night. The president's signature means that the government will avert a default on its debt interest payments.

The House and Senate passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling on Tuesday.

"It was a long and contentious debate and I want to thank the American people for keeping the pressure on their elected officials," said Obama. "Voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government.

The president stressed that Congress must include revenue to bring balance to the new budget, and he continued to target millionaires and billionaires.

"This is just, however, the first step," Obama said. "Everyone is going to have to chip in; it's only fair."

The president turned attention from the debt ceiling and warned that the economy has absorbed a number of problems that included the Japan earthquake, the Arab Spring, higher oil prices and a Eurozone crisis. "We have workers who need jobs and a country that needs rebuilding," Obama said.

The Senate passed the budget proposal 74 to 26 a day after the House approved the crucial measure Monday night by a vote of 269 to 161 to shove aside bitter partisanship for the first time in the past month.

"There's basically one winner through all of this, and that's the American people," Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said before the Senate vote. Though he approved of the bill, Reid said the compromise Congress had reached was still imperfect.

The Monday House vote culminated in a moving appearance by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) who reached the House floor for the first time since an assassination attempt on her life in January. Giffords cast her "yea" vote in the final minutes and received a standing ovation. The overwhelming support of the budget legislation that would raise the debt limit by $2.1 trillion and cut as much as $2.4 trillion from budget deficits left responsibility to the upper chamber of Congress.

"Either we will have done what is in the best interest of the American people, or we will have failed," Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) said in morning debates. "I think it could be as much as 75 votes of this 100-member United States Senate that will vote in favor of this package." He was off by a vote.

Though a plurality of Washington politicians supported the latest in a long stream of budget proposals, there were still some outside the beltway who criticized it.

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said that the solution to avoid default would not solve America's debt and jobs crisis.

"This agreement only sets the stage for an enormous amount of work going forward -- well beyond the next two years -- on how to create jobs, reduce government spending, return to balanced budgets and pay off our debt," Gingrich said.

Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.), both Republican presidential hopefuls, voted "Nay" to raise the debt ceiling.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.



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