The partial U.S. government shutdown is heading into its second week with no end in sight, even as the country nears a crucial deadline to increase its borrowing limit so it does not default on its financial obligations.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain furloughed. But 350,000 civilian defense workers returned to work Monday after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel determined that they were not subject to the layoffs that have halted services at numerous government agencies.
The U.S. government is also running out of money to pay its bills, including interest on bonds held by China, Japan and other overseas investors. China warned that the "clock is ticking" for the U.S. to increase its debt ceiling, with the United States saying it expects to reach its borrowing limit October 17.
China's vice finance minister, Zhu Guangyao, said it is important for the United States to act quickly to protect more than $1 trillion in Chinese investments in the U.S. and the global economic recovery.
"We ask that the United States earnestly takes steps to resolve in a timely way before October 17 the political [issues] around the debt ceiling and prevent a U.S. debt default to ensure safety of Chinese investments in the U.S. and the global economic recovery. This is the U.S.'s responsibility," he said.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and his Republican opponents in Congress are locked in a stalemate over spending priorities that led to the shutdown, increasing the debt ceiling and major health care reforms now being put in place.
The White House has pushed for a big enough increase in the debt ceiling so that it would not have to be raised again until late 2014. But one economic adviser suggested Monday that it might agree to a short-term increase of a few weeks in order to get past the immediate mid-October deadline.
Republicans want to end or delay Obama's health care changes, but he has called for passage of a spending deal and a debt increase without conditions. Speaker John Boehner, the leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, told ABC news Sunday that the president is putting the country at risk of a first-ever default by refusing to negotiate on spending and tax policies.
"My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up. And the president's refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation at risk of default," said Boehner.
Boehner said he will not go forward with a vote to increase the government's debt limit without talks that address the Republican concerns on spending.
In an interview with the Associated Press released Saturday, Obama said he expects Congress will increase the country's debt ceiling so the United States can borrow more money.