US Senate to debate extending crisis-era insurance
Separately, the Senate passed two non-controversial legislative fixes to financial regulations that have been called for by the financial services industry.
These changes will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program insures bank deposits above $250,000, the amount the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp normally covers, in checking accounts that do not collect interest.
It is due to expire at the end of the year.
Bank lobbyists have said that letting the program end could lead US companies to pull funds from bank accounts and invest elsewhere, adding to economic uncertainty as the United States grapples with expiring tax cuts and cuts in government spending.
The Senate voted 76-20 to debate the bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that would give the program two more years.
"With concerns about the fiscal cliff in the US and continued instability in European markets, I believe a temporary extension is needed," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said in a statement.
"It provides the most certainty for businesses and financial institutions.
It also provides time to prepare for the end of the program in two years," he said.
The Senate is expected to take another vote on Thursday that would move the bill toward a final vote.
Even if it musters enough
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