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US Facing New Financial Deadlines

The U.S. is facing crucial new financial deadlines in the coming weeks, needing to fund the government for the year starting in October and then increase the country's borrowing limit.

The government said Monday that it will run out of borrowing authority in mid-October as it approaches its current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. That would be about two weeks after Congress and the White House will have to agree on an annual spending plan for the fiscal year that begins October 1, although President Barack Obama and lawmakers could work toward a short-term agreement and push off final decisions until later in the year.

If no accord is reached on the twin issues, the government could partially shut down and later not have enough money to pay its bills.

Contentious political fights in Washington over taxes and spending have been a recurring theme during the four and a half years of Mr. Obama's presidency, essentially a debate over the size and role of the national government. The White House call for higher taxes on the wealthy has been adamantly opposed by Mr. Obama's Republican congressional opponents, who want steep spending cuts in domestic programs.

The two sides have often negotiated till the last possible moments before reaching agreements to solve immediate funding issues. But Mr. Obama and congressional leaders have been unable to reach agreement on broader economic reforms, especially on tax law changes, spending on government pensions for older Americans and health care for the poor and retired workers.

With the new deadlines approaching, the dean of the Hofstra University business school in New York, Patrick Socci, told VOA that Mr. Obama and his political opponents are likely to again reach a last-minute deal, but with neither side feeling like it won.

"I think what happens here is when you have a myriad of issues, and I would even venture to say that immigration reform may even be thrown into the mix, that people will use different aspects of these issues as leverage for what they want in some of the other issues. I think they will come up with a deal, but it will be at the 11th hour, so that whatever deal is arranged, for sure, no one side will be completely happy."

The leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has called for a short-term spending agreement to keep the government running October 1, but he says any increase in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by further spending cuts to eventually trim the country's debt. Some Republicans have called for repealing Mr. Obama's signature health care law that takes full effect in October to save money, but Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers are opposed.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Mr. Obama would negotiate with Congress over the 2014 spending plan, but not on raising the debt ceiling.

"Let me reiterate what our position is, and it is unequivocal. We will not negotiate with Republicans in Congress over Congress' responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has racked up. Period."

Hofstra's Socci says whatever agreement might be reached will leave both Democrats and Republicans with campaign claims for next year's congressional elections and the next presidential contest in 2016.

"Nothing has changed. There are no new political forces out there. And so it's just the same people digging in on their various sides, and so they'll somehow get by. No one will have enough power to score the knockout punch and to claim complete victory."

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