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Budget chief Lew says there's still time to avert U.S. default; Lawmakers respond to Brooks arrest

posted 17 Jul 2011, 09:32 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 17 Jul 2011, 09:35 ]

As debt negotiations remain at an impasse, the White House Budget chief warns that the consequences would be "dire" if the U.S. Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling. Also on the radar for the U.S. Congress is the possibility of an investigation into whether the alleged hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper business extends to his holdings in the U.S.


White House budget director Jack Lew said on Sunday (July 17) there was still time to clinch a major deficit reduction deal and he was confident that congressional leaders know a U.S. debt default is not an option.

With time running short, President Barack Obama and lawmakers were struggling for ways to lift the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit as an Aug. 2 deadline to prevent a default draws dangerously close.

"If we don't raise the debt ceiling, we won't be able to pay our bills in August," said Lew. "And that has dire consequences."

Lew, appearing on NBC's Sunday morning talk show "Meet the Press" to push Obama's case for a sweeping deficit reduction deal along with the debt ceiling increase, said talks require leadership on "both sides."

"There's still time to get something big done," said Lew. "The president has made it clear he wants to do something substantial."

Obama's call for a $4 trillion deficit reduction deal snagged when Republicans in Congress rejected his demand that tax increases on the wealthy be part of the plan.

Congress must raise the $14.3 trillion limit on U.S. borrowing by Aug. 2 or the government will run out of money to pay its bills, causing turmoil in global financial markets and potentially forcing the United States into another recession.

Ratings agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's have signaled they may cut the gold-plated U.S. credit rating if the borrowing limit is not raised and deficit-reduction measures are not laid out.

Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers couldn't even agree on whether Congress should raise an investigation into the hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper business News International, the British unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

When asked to weigh in on the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, former head of News International, the British unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., Democratic Senator Dick Durbin called for both Congress and the FBI to investigate.

"What's going on in England is startling -- to think the extent they went to to break the law to try to report a story," said Durbin.

But Republican Senator Jim DeMint disagreed, saying Congress needs to focus on the debt reduction plan.

"We need to handle our own business for a change," said DeMint.

Rebekah Brooks quit as head of News International on Friday (July 15), but has denied she knew of the alleged hacking of thousands of phones. She was arrested on Sunday (July 17).

Politicians from Australia to the United States are demanding to know if similar abuses occurred elsewhere in Murdoch's global media business.