World News

    US: A Possible Move to Increase Its Borrowing Limit

    The United States could be taking the first steps toward increasing its borrowing authority so it does not default on its financial obligations.

    The White House said Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama is encouraged by an offer from Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives for a six-week increase in the cap on the $16.7 trillion borrowing authority the U.S. expects to reach in a week. At that point, the U.S. says it would run short of money to pay all its bills.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney said the offer from House Republicans -- some of the Democratic president's staunchest political opponents -- appears to be a recognition that the U.S. must not default.



    "The president is happy that cooler heads at least seem to be prevailing in the House, that there at least seems to be a recognition that default is not an option."



    Carney said Mr. Obama would likely agree to a short-term debt ceiling deal as long as other conditions are not attached to it.

    But Washington's other contentious financial and political problem -- the now 10-day-old partial government shutdown -- remains unsettled.

    Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House, asked his colleagues to support the increase in the country's debt ceiling through November 22, so the country can borrow enough money to pay all its bills until then, on the condition that Mr. Obama negotiate government spending issues before Republicans would agree to end the shutdown.

    Boehner said he would offer the president ideas for ending the shutdown at a White House meeting later Thursday, but offered no details.

    The debt extension, if it happens, possibly would give Republicans a chance to negotiate spending cuts with Mr. Obama, who has called for reopening the government and an increase in the borrowing limit without conditions.

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told a Senate panel that it would be a "grave mistake" to fail to increase the borrowing limit. By next Thursday, he said the Treasury would only have about $30 billion on hand and some incoming revenue, but not enough to pay all its bills.

    He said the government should not have to make "perilous choices" whether it uses its available cash to pay government bond holders, pension and health benefits owed to older Americans, aid to military veterans or businesses that provide services to the government.



    "The United States should not be put in a position of making such perilous choices for our economy and our citizens. There is no way of knowing the irrevocable damage such an approach would have on our economy and financial markets."



    But Lew declined to say how much of an increase Mr. Obama wants in the debt ceiling, other than to say it should cover borrowing needs for a longer, rather than shorter period of time.

    The debate over increasing the U.S. debt limit comes in the midst of the government shutdown because of a stalemate between Mr. Obama and his Republican opponents in Congress over government spending priorities and the implementation of widespread health care reforms that are his signature legislative achievement.

    Senator Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that while the government shutdown "has been disruptive, a default would be a financial heart attack."

    Republican Orrin Hatch criticized Mr. Obama for not negotiating over government spending issues while asking for an increase in the country's debt limit without conditions.

    Hatch noted that in 2006, then-Senator Obama called a proposed increase in the debt ceiling at the time a "failure of leadership," when Republican President George W. Bush was in office. Hatch said the borrowing limit has since been increased seven times during Mr. Obama's term in the White House, from $11.3 trillion to the current $16.7 trillion.



    The standoff over the government shutdown between Republicans and Mr. Obama is chiefly over the president's health care law that by January will require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine, a mandatory provision that Republicans staunchly oppose.

    Republicans had originally sought to either end spending for the law or delay it in exchange for halting the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, and Boehner has called on Mr. Obama to hold negotiations before letting the House vote.

    But the president says he will not negotiate until Congress reopens the government and boosts the borrowing authority without attaching any conditions. The partial shutdown has halted numerous government services, including death benefits to the families of U.S. service members killed in combat. The public backlash prompted the House to vote unanimously Wednesday to restore the benefits. The measure now goes to the Senate.

    The Pentagon has reached an agreement with a private charity to pay the benefits until funding is restored.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.