BERLIN — Germany's parliament overwhelmingly approved a third Greek bailout package Wednesday, removing a key hurdle to providing new loans to the country and keeping it from defaulting on its debts as soon as this week.
The vote's result also seemed to dispel any speculation that Chancellor Angela Merkel would have difficulty getting her conservative bloc to sign on. Lawmakers voted 454-113 in favor, with 18 abstentions.
The approval was never in doubt but in a similar vote last month, 60 members of Merkel's conservative bloc voted against and some local media had speculated that even more could rebel this time as Germans are increasingly skeptical about providing Greece with more money.
Though a party-breakdown of the vote was not immediately available, the result Wednesday suggested that if anything, more of Merkel's lawmakers voted in line with her recommendation
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a senior member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Party who has been one of the harshest critics of Greece, may have helped the cause as he lobbied hard ahead of the vote for the passage of Greek's third bailout in five years.
Schaeuble told lawmakers that approval of the three-year 86 billion-euro ($93 billion) package is "in the interest of Greece and the interest of Europe."
He noted that the Greek government has taken big steps over the past few weeks to restore trust with its creditors.
Schaeuble conceded that voting in favor of the bailout wasn't an easy one for him, but that "it would be irresponsible to not use the chance for a new beginning in Greece" in light of the fact that the Greek parliament has already backed a large chunk of reform measures demanded by creditors.
Germany is the largest single contributor to the bailouts and many in Schaeuble's party remain skeptical.
Merkel's coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and the opposition Greens also backed the deal.
The German approval is among the last that Greece's bailout needs across Europe. Lawmakers in Spain and Estonia approved it Tuesday, while those in the Netherlands are expected to do so Wednesday. The deal needs to clear all hurdles so Greece can get the first installment of money and make a big debt repayment to the European Central Bank due on Thursday.
Under the terms of the deal, Greece has to make further spending cuts and tax increases and implement big reforms to its economy.
Schaeuble laid out his hope that the bailout will help turn the Greek economy around. Greece has spent much of the past six years in recession. Its economy is around a quarter smaller than it was and that's pushed unemployment and poverty rates sharply higher.
"If Greece stands by its obligations and the program is completely and resolutely implemented, then the Greek economy can grow again," Schaeuble said. "The opportunity is there. Whether it will be used, only the Greeks can decide."
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is mulling whether to call a vote of confidence in his government after a big rebellion among his radical left Syriza party over the bailout. There's also growing talk in Greece that Tsipras may opt for early elections as soon as next month now that the bailout deal is in place.
Tsipras' Syriza topped January's election on a promise to bring an end to hated austerity but after months of tortuous discussions with creditors, he was forced into a U-turn so the country could get the rescue money that maintains Greece's place in the 19-country eurozone.