US government raises debt ceiling; China's premier tries to enforce government building ban; Russia to veto Syrian aid; Belgium to legalise euthanasia for terminally ill children; and more

Top of the Agenda

House Raises Debt Ceiling

After three years of brinksmanship over the borrowing capacity of the United States government, the House of Representatives voted 221-201 to increase the debt ceiling until March 2015 in a so-called "clean bill" that doesn't include extra strings to satisfy political demands (WaPo). The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on the bill this week. Raising the debt ceiling without legislating spending cuts was seen as a major departure for Republicans, as the party decided to keep the political focus on Obama's health-care law rather than the nation's credit (AP). Stocks increased on the news on Tuesday, and global shares, also boosted by trade data in China and a U.S. Federal Reserve pledge to keep interest rates low, continued the rally and rose on Wednesday for a sixth straight day, the longest winning run in five months (Reuters).

Analysis

"Before it created the debt ceiling in 1917, Congress had to vote to approve each new government bond issue, specifying the amount to be borrowed and the terms. This is in stark contrast to today's practice, when Treasury is generally free to borrow at will until it hits the statutory borrowing limit. Congress could repeal the debt ceiling and go back to approving each new debt issue," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.

"Now that's it become clear that this White House and all future ones can refuse to negotiate over the ceiling, forcing Congress to raise it every time, the purpose of the ceiling is lost. Republicans now hate the division and embarrassment these votes cause; and Democrats will almost always vote to raise it no matter what. So why go through the motions? Just suspend the debt ceiling permanently. The country has enough problems to handle without creating one every year," writes David Firestone in the New York Times.

"Democrats undermined their own position by talking too much about raising the debt limit—and not talking about the consequences of sending the country into default… The word 'default' didn't even show up in the debate during the first round of this fight in 2011. We shared this linguistic analysis with top Democrats and recommended a simple, but critical, change in their message: Stop talking about the 'debt limit.' Start the conversation with the word 'default,'" write Doug Hattaway and Steve Pierce in Politico.

 

Pacific Rim

China’s Premier Tries to Enforce Building Ban

Chinese premier Li Keqiang has called for a complete halt to construction of new government buildings, training centers, and hotels, in an effort to reinforce the five-year ban on new official buildings that was announced in July and hasn't been effectively implemented (SCMP).

CHINA: Exports and imports rose sharply in January, raising concerns among analysts that Chinese companies may be over-invoicing, which distorts economic indicators (FT).

ELSEWHERE:

Russia to veto Syrian aid

Belgium to legalise euthanasia for terminally ill children

  This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.

 

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