The twin fiscal fights are testing the Republicans’ resolve in stopping the health law and Obama’s insistence on implementing it without delay. If Congress doesn’t act, the government will shut October 1 and be unable to borrow to pay all its bills later in the month. Each side is counting on the other to blink first.
House Republicans said they wouldn’t accept Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan to remove the healthcare language from the bill next week and warned of a temporary government shutdown after the fiscal year ends September 30.
“We’ll add some other things that they hate and make them eat that, and we’ll play this game up until either September 30, October 3, somewhere in between,” said first-term Representative Richard Hudson, a North Carolina Republican.
“Harry Reid’s going to realize we’re serious and hopefully at that point, he’ll begin to negotiate with us.”
The spending legislation preserves across-the-board spending cuts at an annual rate of $986.3 billion and permanently defunds the Affordable Care Act.
“The fight to delay Obamacare doesn’t end next week. It keeps going on until we get it,” Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, told reporters on Friday in Washington.
Democratic Representatives Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina voted with the Republicans. Representative Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican, opposed the measure, saying it wouldn’t replace automatic spending cuts or address reliance on short-term funding measures.
“Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown,” Reid said in a statement. “Republicans here in Washington are using these stunts to raise money and grab headlines.”
Obama administration officials repeatedly have said the president would veto the House bill if sent to him by Congress.
“Congress is not meeting the test of helping middle-class families,” Obama said on Friday at a Ford Motor Co. plant in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. “They’re focused on trying to mess with me.”
Obama called Boehner on Friday to tell him he wouldn’t negotiate on the debt ceiling, the White House and the speaker’s office said in separate statements.
The president urged Congress against a “self-inflicted wound,” according to the White House, while Boehner was disappointed by Obama’s stance against negotiation, the Ohio Republican’s office said.
Should House Republicans eventually remove the health-law provisions from the spending bill and accept Reid’s plan, they will focus even more intently on getting a one-year delay in the health law as part of the debt limit. Obama says he won’t negotiate on this point.
The House is assembling a bill to suspend the borrowing limit until December 31, 2014, according to a proposal distributed by party leaders to Republican members and obtained by Bloomberg News.
The bill, expected to save at least $256 billion, would also include other party priorities, such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, increasing means testing for Medicare and cutting government regulations.
The debt-limit bill would encourage offshore energy production, energy production on federal lands and block Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse-gas and coal-ash regulations.
Also being considered is a proposal to eliminate a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that would end regulators’ authority to seize and dismantle financial firms if their failure could damage the stability of the US financial system.
Another proposal would gut mandatory spending for the Consumer Financial Protection Board and revise the federal employees’ retirement system.
Cruz, a Texas Republican and chief Senate opponent of the health law, said he’s willing to do “everything necessary and anything possible,” including holding a filibuster, to thwart action on the spending measure as a way to end funding for the health-care law. He called yesterday for party unity.
“Senate Republicans should stand side-by-side with courageous House Republicans,” Cruz said in a statement.
The Senate probably will start considering the legislation on September 23 with the goal of finishing by September 26.
Democratic leaders are considering a procedural tactic that would put Cruz and his allies in an awkward spot and upend their efforts. Under Senate rules, they could have a simple majority vote that would strip the health-care defunding language once they end debate on the House measure.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm, is targeting House members who voted for the spending bill and are seeking Senate seats in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana and West Virginia. All are states carried by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
“Democrats will hold Republicans accountable for their reckless plan to shut down the government and ignore the danger their actions pose to the country,” the Democratic committee said in a statement.
India to Build World’s Largest Solar Plant
India will build the world’s largest solar plant to generate 4,000 MW from sunlight near the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan that will sell electricity at an estimated rate of Rs5.50 per unit.
The proposed solar project’s capacity is about three times India’s total solar power capacity and comparable with coal-fired mega power projects of Tata Power and Reliance Power.
“Being the first project of this scale anywhere in the world, this project is expected to set a trend for large-scale solar power development in the world,” a government statement was cited by The Economic Times.
It would be set up and run by a joint venture of five public sector utilities Bhel, Powergrid Corporation of India, Solar Energy Corporation of India, Hindustan Salts limited and Rajasthan Electronics & Instruments Limited, the statement said.
The first phase of the project, which would be 1,000 MW, is expected to be commissioned in 2016.
“Based on the experience gained during the implementation of the first phase of project, the remaining capacity would be implemented through a variety of models,” it said.
The project would be spread across 23,000 acre of land out of which 18,000 acre would be provided by Hindustan Salts limited. The tariff is expected to be competitive.
“Government is considering a tariff of Rs5.50 per unit of solar power generated for this project,” said Ashwini Kumar, director (solar), solar energy corporation. Notably, Rs5.50 per unit would be the lowest ever tariff for solar power in the country, which is expected to be the benchmark reference tariff for the upcoming phase of the national solar mission as well.
“We would route a part of the finance through viability gap funding, rest would be tied through power purchase agreements with power distribution companies,” said Kumar.
The current cost of solar power in the country is around Rs 7 per unit. With the project setting the benchmark cost Rs5.50 per unit; it is expected to bring down the cost of solar power further.
“Solar power at the rate of Rs5.50 per unit would surely bring in buyers. Prior discussion with the government, distribution companies and ministry of finance have yielded that solar power at this rate is most viable for finance and purchase,” said Amit Kumar, Associate Director (energy & utilities) at PwC.
Asia Pacific States Still Struggling With Poverty
A new United Nations report says that although economic growth in Asia-Pacific countries in recent years has reduced the severest forms of poverty, millions remain vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.
The United Nations report, released Friday, challenges Asia-Pacific governments to work harder in efforts to target poverty, improve education and government accountability, AidNews.org reported.
The report comes less than two years ahead of the target date from the region’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set benchmarks for progress in areas ranging from income distribution, health, education, food consumption and safe drinking water.
Alessandra Casazza, a policy adviser with the UN Development Program in the Asia Pacific, said that while fast economic growth has been a highlight of regional development, it has failed to generate sufficient employment to make substantial progress in reducing poverty. Insufficient funds are being allocated to areas such as social services and education.
“There are a number of issues which remain; at the back of this fast and accelerated economic growth people are still suffering from deprivation, very severe deprivation. The main challenges are that people don’t have by and large access to basic services, such as water sanitation, and education, health services and energy,” said Casazza.
The report says issues facing the region serve as a stark wakeup call for meeting the 2015 Development Goals that represent economic and social progress across the region.
UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (UNESCAP) officials say more inclusive growth is needed to address rising regional inequalities in income and access to services. Countries, they say, need to create more decent and productive jobs and expand social protections.
Shun-ichi Murata, deputy executive secretary for UNESCAP, said the number of people vulnerable to economic and other shocks has been increasing since 1990, with as many as 1.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day. These people remain vulnerable to falling into absolute poverty.
“The region still has large pockets of poverty and millions remaining vulnerable. And there are also a large number of people living just above the extreme poverty line, in near poverty who cannot manage a decent existence,” said Murata.
“Various issues like disasters and economic shocks, all these people are really vulnerable, around the threshold of $1.25 and $2 per day--that’s what we’re trying to send the message to the world. So we have a lot of remaining business or work to do.”
Iran to Deregulate Export Controls
Translated by Shahrokh Saei
Iran plans to gradually deregulate export controls on a large number of commodities based on the 100-day economic plan proposed by the government.
Announcing this, Kioumars Fathollah Kermanshahi, the deputy head of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI), said the number of deregulated commodities has declined to 17 items since the current government took office in August, Hamshahri Online wrote.
Pointing to foreign exchange market stability that offset soaring prices, he said, “In case the current situation prevails, export restrictions will be abolished in the near future.”
The official added that as long as domestic manufacturers procure raw materials without relying on the subsidized foreign exchange rate, imposing a ban on the export of commodities is illogical.
“Non-oil exports declined by 8 percent since the beginning of the current Iranian year (March 21) while imports dropped by 26 percent,” he said.
The TPOI official stressed that the import of raw materials required by domestic industries must be prioritized, as it will help increase domestic production and boost exports.
Reiterating that the deregulation of exports must be put on the agenda, Kermanshahi noted that petrochemicals can be largely exported, unless domestic needs are not met.
“Special arrangements must be made to pave the way for the export of petrochemicals and its supply to the domestic market,” he said.
The export of a number of essential goods, including flour, wheat, sugar, red meat, barley, corn feed, soybeans, butter, edible oil, livestock, wood and charcoal as well as sodium carbonate, has been banned.
Since January 2012, the Iranian government has maintained a subsidized rate of 12,260 rials to the US dollar for importing the most vital goods such as food and medicine. The rial is currently trading for about 3,000 to the dollar in the open market.
Philippine Banana ExportsTo Iran Down
A Philippine official said the export of bananas to Iran has declined by 43 percent as of June 2013 compared to June 2012.
The statement was made by Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Executive Director Stephen A. Antig, Sun Star reported.
In the Philippine Quarantine Service (PQS) Banana Monthly Report (2012-13)-Iran released to the press, 6,086,499 boxes were exported as of June 2013 compared to 9,524,208 boxes exported last year.
“Our problem in Iran is an option of the US sanction to the country. We encountered the problem in 2009 wherein there was a sudden decrease of exportations,” Antig said in a phone interview with Sun Star Davao.
The official added that Iran encountered problems related to remittance of payments for bananas and it remains a dilemma.
Antig also said the problem worsened due to the advisory that limited companies to ship bananas to Iran.
Kerman Earns $186m
Kerman province exported over $186 million worth of commodities during March 21-August 22, up 5 percent compared with the corresponding figure of last year.
Announcing this, Mohammad Abedinejad, the head of Kerman Industries, Mines and Trade Organization, put the quantity of exports at 117,000 tons, up 60 percent from a year ago.
“Pistachios, copper products, fresh and dried dates, cement and coal accounted for a large portion of exports,” he said.
Abedinejad attributed the remarkable surge in exports to the growth in cement and coal output.
Impact of German Election
Germany’s election will influence the future of much of Europe, especially Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and many other countries. But none of them can vote.