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WASHINGTON: The US Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday to raise the federal government's $28.9 trillion debt limit and forward the measure to the House of Representatives for final passage, to avoid an unprecedented default.

Both Democratic and Republican aides said the Senate was expected to vote on passage later on Tuesday, following a months-long standoff. The chamber has allowed for up to 10 hours of debate, which could push the vote into the evening.

It was not clear how long the debate would last or when the House could vote on the measure and forward it to the White House for Democratic President Joe Biden's signature.

Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate and the House, have yet to disclose the size of the increase. But observers expect a hike of $2 trillion to $3 trillion to meet the federal government's needs through next year's Nov. 8 midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress.

The increase is needed in part to cover debt incurred during Republican Donald Trump's presidency, when the debt rose by about $7.85 trillion, partly through sweeping tax cuts and spending to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had urged Congress to hike the debt limit before Wednesday.

Republicans, who control half of the Senate's 100 seats, have tried to link the vote to Biden's $1.75 trillion "Build Back Better" bill to bolster the social safety net and fight climate change.

Congress reaches agreement to avert calamitous US debt default

Under an unusual deal worked out by the top Democrat and top Republican in the Senate, and approved by both chambers last week, the 48 Senate Democrats and two independents who caucus with them are likely to raise the debt ceiling on their own, with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

The debt ceiling fight and another self-created crisis, passing a bill to continue to fund the government through February, occupied much of Congress' time this month, and members in both chambers are now eager to begin lengthy holiday breaks.

Votes to lift the country's debt ceiling have taken place on a regular basis since World War One. But some lawmakers in recent years have grown squeamish at such legislation, fearing voter backlash.

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