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The debt-limit fiasco: Boehner versus Obama

The fight over the debt ceiling has turned into a dramatic leadership test for President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, opponents in a divided government who’ve gone from negotiating in secret to facing off in public at a watershed moment for the country and their own political careers. As the standoff enters its uncertain endgame, it’s unclear which of them will come out ahead — or if the two leaders will rise or fall together with days left to strike a deal and stave off a potentially catastrophic default on U.S. financial obligations. After Boehner succeeded in maneuvering
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Iraq deadlier now than a year ago

Frequent bombings, assassinations and a resurgence in violence by Shiite militias have made Iraq more dangerous now than it was just a year ago, a U.S. government watchdog concludes in a report released Saturday. The findings come during what U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. called “a summer of uncertainty” in Baghdad over whether American forces will stay past a year-end withdrawal deadline and continue military aid for the unstable nation. “Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work,” Bowen concluded in his 172-page quarterly report to Congress and the Obama administration on progress —
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Dysfunctional Republicans spotlight Capitol Hill chaos

Demoralized House Republicans are trying for a third straight day to pass a debt-ceiling bill that has almost no chance of surviving the Senate, even as the clock ticks closer to next week’s deadline for avoiding a potentially calamitous government default. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suffered a stinging setback Thursday when, for a second consecutive day, he had to postpone a vote on his proposal to extend the nation’s borrowing authority while cutting federal spending by nearly $1 trillion. “Obviously, we didn’t have the votes,” Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said after Boehner and the GOP leadership had spent hours
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Debt limit stalemate threatens defense spending

Once unthinkable in a time of two wars, Democrats and Republicans alike are insisting that the billions spent on the military can be significantly cut back over the next decade as the nation struggles to reduce its spiraling debt. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s plan to slash spending and increase the government’s borrowing authority would cap spending by the Pentagon and other government agencies at $1.2 trillion. Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has called for just over $1 trillion in defense cuts in his “Back in Black” plan, including fewer weapons, fighter jets and personnel. A bipartisan group of
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Divided Republicans postpone debt limit vote

The endgame at hand, House Republicans struggled Thursday to pass legislation to prevent a looming government default while slicing nearly $1 trillion from federal spending. Senate Democrats pledged to scuttle the bill — if it got to them — in hopes of forcing a final compromise. As afternoon debate headed toward evening, GOP leaders ordered an unexplained halt on the measure and Speaker John Boehner summoned a string of recalcitrant rank-and-file Republicans to his office. Asked what he and Boehner had talked about, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said, “I think that’s rather obvious. .. There’s negotiations going on.” Another Republican,
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Economy continues to slow down

The economy likely grew in the first half of the year at the slowest pace since the recession ended, and the second half isn’t looking much better. Weak consumer spending, dismal hiring and cuts in government spending likely held back growth in the April-June quarter. The government will report on second-quarter growth on Friday. Economists forecast the economy expanded at an annual rate of 1.7 percent, according to a FactSet survey. That follows a 1.9 percent growth rate in the first three months of the year. Those are the slowest back-to-back quarters since the economy began recovering from the recession
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Dysfunctional House sets vote on doomed GOP debt limit bill

House Republicans are pressing ahead with a vote on a newly modified plan to stave off an unprecedented government default next week even though the legislation faces a White House veto threat and unanimous opposition among Senate Democrats. As the House prepared to vote Thursday, investor worries that a dysfunctional Congress might remain gridlocked sent stocks plunging. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped almost 200 points Wednesday, on top of a 92-point drop the day before. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made headway with balky conservatives unhappy that the measure contains smaller spending cuts than a more stringent debt measure
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Short-term or long-term? That is the question

It’s a central question in the debt ceiling debate: How long should the nation’s new borrowing authority last? From the start, President Barack Obama has insisted that Congress must raise the current $14.3 trillion debt limit by $2.4 trillion. That would work out to about a 17-month extension, setting up the next vote safely after next year’s elections. But what’s the magic in that? The nation has increased the debt ceiling time and again by shorter periods, often during presidential election years. Republicans, meanwhile, in a plan put forth by House Speaker John Boehner, want a six-month debt ceiling increase
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Aug. 2: A phony debt-limit deadline?

Will the sky fall on August 2 if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling? Not likely, according to analysts, who say that even without the ability to borrow more money, the government could avoid a devastating default for another week or so. That raises the question of how urgently action is needed to increase the nation’s borrowing limit. For weeks, President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have stressed that the U.S. Treasury will run out of room to borrow funds next Tuesday and have warned of dire consequences if Congress does not raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion
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Ouch! Government health care costs will hit $4.6 trillion by 2020

The nation’s health care tab is on track to hit $4.6 trillion in 2020, accounting for about $1 of every $5 in the economy, government number crunchers estimate in a report out Thursday. How much is that? Including government and private money, health care spending in 2020 will average $13,710 for every man, woman and child, says Medicare‘s Office of the Actuary. By comparison, U.S. health care spending this year is projected to top $2.7 trillion, or about $8,650 per capita, roughly $1 of $6 in the economy. Most of that spending is for care for the sickest people. The
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