By Richard Rubin, Roxana Tiron & James Rowley , BLOOMBERG

The fiscal bill passed by Congress solves an immediate dilemma, averting income-tax increases for most Americans while taxing top-earners more, yet leaves unanswered a longer-term question of taming the federal debt.

Republicans have immediately turned to their next battle — counting on the need to raise the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling to try to force President Barack Obama to accept cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare. Congress must act as early as mid-February to prevent a default and the dispute may reprise a similar 2011 episode that led to a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

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