Eye on raised US debt ceiling

WASHINGTON – Democrats controlling

the Senate plan to move quickly toward a vote

to allow the government to borrow more

money, challenging Republicans to a filibuster

showdown as the time remaining to stop

a first-ever default on United States obligations

ticks by.

A spokesman said Senate Majority Leader

Harry Reid could unveil the measure as early as

today, setting the table for a test vote later in

the week. The measure is expected to provide

enough borrowing room to last beyond next

year’s election, which means it likely will permit

$1 trillion or more in new borrowing above

the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling that the

administration says will be hit on October 17.

It’s not expected to include new spending cuts

sought by Republicans.

The development comes as a partial

shutdown of the government enters its second

week with no end in sight.

Those affected include families of service

members killed in action. Survivors are typically

sent a $100,000 payment within three days

to help with costs such as funeral expenses.

Because of the shutdown, the Defence

Department doesn’t have the authority to

make the payments, officials said yesterday,

even though most of the department’s civilian

workers had been recalled.

Some 350,000 civilian Defence Department

workers were summoned back to work

yesterday as the result of legislation Congress

passed and Obama signed after the shutdown

began. Many other agencies, such as NASA and

the Environmental Protection Agency, remain

mostly shuttered.

Even the White House is feeling the

effects, with about three out of four

staffers furloughed.

It’s not clear whether Reid’s gambit will

work in the Senate. Republicans are expected

to oppose the measure if it doesn’t contain

budget cuts to make a dent in deficits. The

question is whether Republicans will try to

hold up the measure with a filibuster. Such a

showdown could unnerve the financial markets.

Until recently, debt limit increases have

not been the target of filibusters; the first in

memory came four years ago, when Democrats

controlled the Senate with a filibuster-proof

60 votes.

Many Republicans in the Senate, including

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

and Whip John Cornyn of Texas, have voted

for so-called clean debt limit increases during

Republican administrations.

Some Republicans seemed wary of

participating in a filibuster that could rattle the

stock and bond markets. (AP)

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