President Barack Obama signed a last-minute compromise plan to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling Tuesday afternoon, narrowly averting what could have been an unprecedented default with calamitous economic consequences.RELATED: Boehner: I Got '98 Percent' Of What I Wanted In Debt Deal
The U.S. Senate passed the plan, which imposes sweeping new spending cuts over the next decade, shortly after noon ET. The bill was approved in a 74-26 vote; 60 votes were required for passage.
The measure was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday by a 269-161 vote, overcoming opposition from unhappy liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans.
Obama praised the deal moments after the Senate passed it, calling the measure "an important first step for ensuring that as a nation we don't live beyond our means."
But the American economy "didn't need Washington to come along with a manufactured crisis," the president noted. "It's pretty likely that the uncertainty surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling -- for both businesses and consumers -- has been unsettling, and just one more impediment to the full recovery that we need. And it was something that we could have avoided entirely."
"Voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government," the president said.
If the debt ceiling had not been increased before the end of Tuesday, Americans could have seen rapidly rising interest rates, a falling dollar and shakier financial markets, among other problems.