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Posts tagged ‘Jacob Lew’

US Pledges $1 Billion in Aid to Ukraine.


The Obama administration has pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the strife-torn country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The financial assistance was seen as an attempt by the United States to show solidarity with Ukraine, which has had its Crimea region invaded by Russian forces following the overthrow last month of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, “The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth if the new government implements the necessary reforms.”

The money was expected to shore up the country’s troubled economy and to help Ukraine finance purchases of energy imports while the former Soviet republic seeks a larger bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

A senior administration official with Kerry told the Journal, “You’re seeing already a response from the United States that is isolating Russia politically and diplomatically and offering strong support for the new Ukrainian government.”

American technical experts will be sent to Ukraine to help sort out the country’s growing financial and energy problems, sources said. U.S. advisers will also help Kiev uncover assets believed to have been stolen by Yanukovych’s government.

The Journal also reported that experts will also be sent to help Ukraine prepare for its May 25 general elections.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

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GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz’s 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid.


Image: GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz's 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate’s top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

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After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, voted “aye” several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

“A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk of Illinois, who said: “Members didn’t want to” vote for it.

The 12 Republicans who voted against Cruz’s measure were: John Barrasso, Wyo.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tenn.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jeff Flake, Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Mark Kirk, Ill.; John McCain, Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; John Thune, S.D.

Cruz’s demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces a May primary against tea party candidate Matt Bevin, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

“In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the “Senate has given President Obama a blank check.”

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: “That is ultimately a decision … for the voters of Kentucky.”

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

“We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

“I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Boehner Braces for ‘Whale of a Fight’ over Debt Limit.


Image: Boehner Braces for 'Whale of a Fight' over Debt Limit

By Lisa Barron

House Speaker John Boehner says he will use the debate over the debt limit this fall to gain political leverage and demand spending cuts in what he described is likely to be a “whale of a fight” over the federal budget.

“The president doesn’t think this is fair, thinks I’m being difficult to deal with,” Boehner said Monday at a fundraiser in Idaho for fellow Republican Rep. Mike Simpson. “But I’ll say this: It may be unfair, but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices.”

“We’re going to have a whale of a fight,” he added, according to the Idaho Statesman.

On the same day Boehner was speaking in Idaho, reports The New York Times, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned him in a letter that unless Congress raised the debt ceiling the government would not be able to pay all of its bills in October.

“Congress should act as soon as possible to protect America’s good credit by extending normal borrowing authority well before any risk of default becomes imminent,” Lew wrote.

“Based on our latest estimates, extraordinary measures are projected to be exhausted in the middle of October,” Lew continued in his letter. At that point, the United States will have reached the limit of its borrowing authority, and Treasury would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand any given day.”

At the same time, Boehner got another stern warning from the White House that there will be no negotiations over the debt limit.

“Let me reiterate what our position is, and it is unequivocal,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday, according to the Times. “We will not negotiate with Republicans in Congress over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has racked up, period.”

Undeterred, Boehner told the Idaho contributors at the Simpson fundraiser that he expects a hard, and possibly long, fight with the administration.

“I wish I could tell you it was going to be pretty and polite, and it would all be finished a month before we’d ever get to the debt ceiling,” he said. “Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way. If this were easy to do, somebody over the last 20 or 30 years would have gotten it done.”

But he added, “We’re going to do it this fall.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Treasury’s Lew: Obama ‘Will Not Negotiate’ Over Debt Limit.


Image: Treasury's Lew: Obama 'Will Not Negotiate' Over Debt Limit

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday said it is essential for Congress to raise the statutory borrowing limit this fall so the government can continue to pay its bills on time.

He warned the administration will not allow politicians to use the debt ceiling as political leverage.

“Congress should come back and they should act,” Lew told CNBC. “The president will not negotiate conditions on the debt limit.”

Editor’s Note: Weird Trick Adds $1,000 to Your Social Security Checks

“What we need in our economy is some certainty. We don’t need another self-inflicted wound,” Lew said. “We don’t need another crisis at the last minute.”

Lew told CNBC that there cannot be any question that the United States is a country that pays its bills. “It’s not as if we get to go back and undo the commitments we made,” he said. “These are old bills that have to be paid.”

The Obama administration on Monday warned Congress that the United States could run out of money to pay its bills soon after mid-October if lawmakers do not move swiftly to raise a limit on government borrowing.

“Congress should act as soon as possible to protect America’s good credit,” Lew said in a letter to congressional leaders, urging action “well before any risk of default becomes imminent.”

The government has been scraping up against its $16.7 trillion debt limit since May, but has avoid defaulting on any of its obligations by employing a number of emergency measures to manage its cash, like suspending investments in pension funds for federal workers.

Lew said the government will exhaust its borrowing capacity in the middle of October and be left with about $50 billion in cash on hand, an amount that he said could conceivably be wiped out in a single day. That would make default imminent and could shake investors’ confidence in the United States, he said.

“Such a scenario could undermine financial markets and result in significant disruptions to our economy,” Lew added.

A heated debate in Washington over the debt ceiling nearly led to default in 2011. This roiled financial markets at the time and helped prompt a Wall Street rating agency to downgrade America’s debt rating.

This year, Republicans are considering using the need to raise the debt ceiling as leverage for their agenda in Congress. The party is trying to weaken President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul. Conservatives also want to reform tax laws and get Obama to approve a proposed oil pipeline.

“The debt limit remains a reminder that, under President Obama, Washington has failed to deal seriously with America’s debt and deficit,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

While Congress has already taken the tax and spending decisions that have fueled U.S. budget deficits, it also separately controls the limit on the nation’s debt.

Obama is vowing not to let the debt ceiling be a bargaining chip in other political discussions.

“We will not negotiate with Republicans in Congress over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has racked up, period,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Previously, the Obama administration had said Congress needed to act by early September, but a strengthening economy has boosted tax receipts, buying the government more time before it runs out of borrowing room.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said the government might not exhaust its borrowing capacity until November, an estimate in line with private sector forecasts.

Editor’s Note: Weird Trick Adds $1,000 to Your Social Security Checks© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWS max.com

Treasury Secretary Lew to Congress: We Will Hit Debt Ceiling in October.


The U.S. will hit the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling in mid-October, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a letter urging Congress to raise the limit “as soon as possible.”

“Extraordinary measures are projected to be exhausted in the middle of October,” Lew said in the letter today to House Speaker John Boehner and other lawmakers.

“At that point, the United States will have reached the limit of its borrowing authority, and Treasury would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand on any given day,” he said. He said the cash balance at that time is forecast to be about $50 billion.

The Treasury Department had earlier said it probably will be able to finance government operations by using special accounting measures until after Congress returns Sept. 9 from its recess. Lew said Aug. 22 a failure by Congress to raise the debt limit would “have disastrous effects for our nation” and could put at risk payments to Social Security recipients and veterans.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Trustees: Social Security and Medicare Both Broke Within 20 Years.


Social Security will run through its trust fund by 2033 and Medicare by 2026, according to the annual report from trustees of the funds.

Believe it or not, the Medicare date is an improvement from last year’s estimate of 2024, thanks to a deceleration of overall healthcare spending growth, particularly on skilled nursing care, as well as lower projected costs for Medicare insurance plans.

Retiring baby boomers are the major source of stress for the two entitlement programs. Almost 10,000 baby boomers are hitting the retirement age (65 to 67 for Social Security and 65 for Medicare) each day and so qualifying for benefits.

Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on how to fix the finances of the two programs, which accounted for about 38 percent of federal spending last year.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, the chairman of the trustees, said President Barack Obama is committed to working with Congress to repair both programs.

“Protecting Social Security and Medicare is one of the most significant challenges we face today as a nation. And it is a challenge that we can and must meet,” he told reporters Friday.

But Obama has said he’s unwilling to raise the Medicare eligibility age.

Not surprisingly, Republicans voiced their concern about the situation as well Friday. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said the programs need to be fixed, The Hill reports.

“Today’s report is yet another reminder that Medicare and Social Security are in great danger. We need to protect and strengthen these critical programs. And we must take action now, so we can keep our promises to current seniors and future retirees,” said the Wisconsin Republican’s spokesman William Allison.

The basic disagreement is that Democrats don’t want to cut benefits and Republicans don’t want to raise taxes to pay for them.

If the trust fund reserves run out, the two entitlement programs won’t collapse but hefty benefit reductions will ensue. For Social Security beneficiaries that would mean a 25 percent decrease and for Medicare beneficiaries a 13 percent decrease, according to the Associated Press.

In March, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute, Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute and John Shoven of Stanford University participated in a symposium on how to deal with Social Security and Medicare’s structural problems.

All three agreed that increased longevity demands that the programs create incentives for people to work longer. Steuerle advocated partial retirement plans to encourage workers to keep going even after they can start earning Social Security. The minimum age for Social Security collection is now 62.

Biggs advocates dropping the 12.4 percent payroll tax for workers older than 62, giving them a good reason to keep working after that age. The shortfall in tax revenue would be made up by the increase in taxes these people would pay on their income.

Shoven objects to the “Medicare Secondary Payer” requirement, which means workers over 65 have to purchase health insurance from their employers if it’s available, rather than dip into Medicare. That amounts to a 30 percent tax on these workers, he said.

Instead, Shoven recommends installing Medicare as the primary insurance for senior citizens even if they’re in the work force. That would goad them into staying there, he says.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Dan Weil

Trustees: Medicare Trust Fund Exhausted in 2026.


Image: Trustees: Medicare Trust Fund Exhausted in 2026

Public Trustee Robert Reischauer speaks as Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew listen during a news conference at the Department of the Treasury on May 31.

The government said Friday that Medicare‘s giant hospital trust fund will be exhausted in 2026, two years later than projected last year, while the date that Social Security will exhaust its trust fund remained unchanged at 2033.

The latest projections were included in the annual report of trustees of the trust funds. The new report warned that despite the small improvement in Medicare, both it and Social Security face significant funding challenges as the giant baby boom generation continues to retire. Currently, 58 million Americans are receiving Social Security benefits.

“Under current law, both of these vitally important programs are on unsustainable paths,” Robert D. Reischauer, one of two public trustees, told reporters at a news conference.

The reasons given for the improved financial outlook for Medicare were an overall slowdown in the rate of increase in health care spending, particularly on skilled nursing care, as well as lower projected costs for popular insurance plans available within the Medicare program.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, the chairman of the trustees, said President Barack Obama is committed to working with Congress to put both programs on a stronger footing.

“Protecting Social Security and Medicare is one of the most significant challenges we face today as a nation. And it is a challenge that we can and must meet,” Lew told reporters.

With almost 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age and qualifying for benefits each day, those dates have been creeping closer, but Washington has been unable to reach consensus on an agreement to strengthen the finances of the government’s biggest benefit programs, which together accounted for about 38 percent of federal spending last year.

Depletion of the reserves in the giant trust funds would not end the benefit programs but would trigger sharp reductions in benefits. For Social Security, retirees would continue to receive about 75 percent of benefits once the Social Security trust fund was exhausted in 2033. For the Medicare hospital trust fund, the depletion of that fund in 2026 would mean a cut in benefits to about 87 percent of the full level.

While the combined Social Security trust fund was projected to be depleted in 2033, the trustees warned that the funding threat to one of the component trust funds that makes payments for workers on disability is much more urgent. It was projected that the disability trust fund would deplete its reserves in just three years in 2016. That date is unchanged from last year’s report.

Charles Blahous III, one of two public members of the trustees group, said that while Congress could decide to correct the shortfall in the disability program by moving tax revenue away from Social Security, that would only worsen the funding problems facing the Social Security retirement program.

A solution to the funding problems for Social Security and Medicare has proven elusive because of the political dangers posed by any agreement that would trim benefits for millions of Americans or raise taxes to cover the projected shortfalls.

Obama has already offered to break a pledge he made in his 2008 re-election campaign not to trim Social Security benefits. Twice in negotiations with GOP leaders, he agreed to adopt a new measure of inflation that would result in smaller cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, for Social Security recipients. He formally put forward that proposal in the budget he sent to Congress in April.

His proposed change in the COLA, once phased in, would mean a cut in Social Security benefits of nearly $1,000 a year for an average 85-year-old recipient of Social Security benefits.

Obama and Republican leaders in Congress have held off-and-on talks about various other possible fixes for the entitlement programs since 2011 as part of their efforts to reduce the government’s soaring budget deficits. But both sides remain far apart. Republicans insist any budget agreement must include deep spending cuts, while Obama is seeking what he calls a balanced deal that would include not only cuts in government spending including reductions in entitlement programs but also higher taxes.

Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the 37-million member AARP, said in reaction to the trustees report that her organization would continue to oppose Obama’s suggested reduction in cost-of-living increases and similar proposals, which she said would jeopardize Americans’ retirement security.

“Washington needs to get its budget under control without breaking the promise of Social Security,” she said.

Many Democrats in Congress have also expressed strong opposition to the COLA trim that Obama has put forward.

House Republicans earlier this year passed a budget that would eventually turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for people younger than 55. But Obama and other Democrats reject that approach.

Obama’s approach to Medicare savings would trim payments to drug companies, hospitals and other service providers. He has also proposed having a growing share of seniors pay higher premiums over time, based on their incomes. In addition, Obama would have wealthy taxpayers pay a higher Medicare payroll tax.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

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