World News

Obama Expects Congress Will OK Rise in US Borrowing Limit



U.S. President Barack Obama says he expects Congress to increase the country's borrowing limit before a mid-October deadline, ensuring that the United States does not default on its financial obligations.

With the U.S. government in the fifth day of a partial shutdown, it also faces running out of money to pay its bills on October 17, including interest on government bonds held by China, Japan and other overseas investors.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press released Saturday, Mr. Obama said he expects Congress will increase the country's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling so the United States can borrow more money:



"America has never not paid its bills. And I've said repeatedly that that's not something anybody should be threatening. The potential default of the United States, where we are essentially deadbeats, that's never happened."



Mr. Obama, a Democrat in his fifth year at the White House, is locked in a political stalemate with Republican opponents in Congress over government spending policies and implementation of his signature legislative achievement, wide-ranging health care changes that are now taking effect.

The president said he is willing to negotiate changes to the health law and reduce spending, but not until Congress agrees to end the shutdown and raises the debt ceiling without conditions. Republicans opposed to the health care reforms are trying to end funding for or delay that program, which is commonly known in the U.S. as "Obamacare."



Opposition Republicans have insisted that they will only approve a spending bill to reopen the government if Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders agree to negotiations on the separate issue of the health care plan.

With Congress deadlocked, a lack of funds has halted or sharply curtailed a wide variety of government services. All national parks, museums and the Library of Congress have been closed since Tuesday, and scientific research at the National Institutes of Health and the space agency, NASA, has been almost entirely suspended. These actions prompted government agencies to order about 800,000 federal workers on furlough status - sending them home without pay, and barring them from remaining at their jobs, even voluntarily.

U.S. military forces have not been directly affected by furloughs, although the Department of Defense sent home 400,000 civilian employees before recalling them to return to work next week. Some federal agencies and programs, such as the Voice of America, have been ordered to continue their work even with a portion of their workforce on furlough. Air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and many food inspectors also are still working.

Despite the focus on the funding shortage resulting from the stalemate in Congress, it now appears that all furloughed workers will eventually be paid for the time they spent at home - thanks to separate action making its way through Congress. Repaying hundreds of millions of dollars to employees whose wages were interrupted, however, is a much smaller issue than the dispute over the debt ceiling.

The U.S., with the world's biggest economy, has never defaulted - failed to pay its bills, in effect. Most analysts do not expect that will happen this time, either, but the uncertainty that currently prevails could cause substantial turmoil in world financial markets. A protracted congressional debate in 2011 over increasing the borrowing limit did not shut off government services, but it roiled international financial markets and noticeably slowed economic growth in the U.S.

Some fear that could occur again in the next two weeks. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday he does not think that will happen, but he warned that a "prolonged or repeated" political crisis in Washington could weaken the U.S. globally.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the island of Bali in Indonesia, Kerry described the current government shutdown as "a momentary episode." The risk, he said, lies in how long the stalemate persists.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans who control the House of Representatives have offered to approve funding for individual agencies, but the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats, has insisted there must be overall funding legislation to reopen the entire government. The Republicans say they will not consider an overall budget unless that includes changes in the health care law, which was previously approved by both houses of Congress and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Obama tried to highlight the impact on furloughed workers Friday by visiting a local sandwich shop that was offering discounts to out-of-work government employees. Before ordering lunch for himself and Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Obama challenged House Speaker John Boehner to allow lawmakers to vote freely on a bill to reopen the government without conditions.



"This shutdown could be over today. We know there are the votes for it in the House of Representatives, and as I said [Thursday], if Speaker Boehner will simply allow that vote to take place, we can end this shutdown."



Democratic criticism has irked Boehner, who objected earlier Friday to a published report that framed the ongoing political struggle as a contest that one side or the other could win or lose:



"This isn't some damn game. The American people don't want their government shut down, and neither do I. All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness, reopen the government, and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare."



Democrats in the House are considering using a parliamentary maneuver to try to force a vote on a funding bill to end the shutdown, but they can only succeed if some Republican representatives turn against their party leadership. Such a vote could not occur before October 14, three days before the U.S. must increase the borrowing limit.

One analyst, University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon, told VOA he thinks both Mr. Obama and his Republican opponents will have to compromise on their policy goals if a default is to be avoided:



"I think at the last minute there will be some compromise, because neither side can afford to be seen by the public as being intransigent. So the Republicans will have to give up and say, OK, we'll settle for fewer tax cuts than we asked for. And the president is going to have to say, I'm going to make some bigger reductions [in spending] than I said I would make, because neither side can afford to have the blame pinned on them. They will move together and learn to live with each other one more time."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs