World News

US Republicans Offer Short-term Increase in Borrowing Limit

U.S. Republican lawmakers are offering a short-term increase in the country's borrowing authority so the United States does not default on its financial obligations, but only if President Barack Obama negotiates an end to the partial government shutdown.

Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, asked his colleagues Thursday to support the increase in the country's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling through November 22, so the country can borrow enough money to pay all its bills until then.

Key Republican leaders then prepared to head to the White House to talk with Mr. Obama about the plan.

Boehner said he would offer the president ideas for ending the 10-day government shutdown, 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 the country will reach its borrowing authority in a week, and that it would be a "grave mistake" to fail to increase it. 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, a Democrat, 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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs