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US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urges Congress to raise debt ceiling as another shutdown looms

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday called on the Republican-controlled Congress to lift the federal debt limit “as soon as possible” so the government can pay employee benefits and other obligations.

In a letter to congressional leaders and key committee chairmen, Mnuchin said the Treasury Department would continue to suspend payments into federal employee retiree, health and disability funds through Feb. 28.

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Congress must raise the nation’s debt ceiling to avoid a government default. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the U.S. Treasury would exhaust its borrowing options and could run out of funds to pay its bills by late March if lawmakers do not act.

The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday moved up its projection for when the Treasury will likely run out of cash to the first half of March, citing lower government revenues after the Republican overhaul of the U.S. tax system in December.

The CBO had previously expected Treasury to exhaust its options in late March or early April.

The request comes as Congress is already wrestling with federal spending for the current fiscal year and faces the possibility of another government shutdown, with approved funding due to run out on Feb. 8.

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Thanks to deep partisan political divisions and intraparty squabbles, lawmakers have passed a series of short-term funding bills since the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1, but have been unable to agree on spending for the rest of that year, which ends Sept. 30. The federal government shutdown earlier this month for three days when Republicans and Democrats failed to find common ground.

In his letter dated Jan. 30, Mnuchin urged members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives “to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible.” The request was released publicly on Wednesday, and Mnuchin is scheduled to meet with Republican President Donald Trump later in the day.

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The Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for financial markets, Clay Berry, said in a separate statement the department can fund the government through the end of February.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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GOP in a panic about what to do with Steve King as Democrats can’t wait to face him in the election

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On Saturday, MSNBC's Garrett Haake broke down the nightmare situation Republicans are facing with Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has faced outrage for years of white supremacist comments, and more recently suggested that rape and incest might be a good thing for society.

"What more recourse do Republicans have?" said host David Gura. "We had this cycle of condemnation in the past after comments were made. He was stripped of committee assignments. Is there more Republicans can do vis-a-vis Steve King?"

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Trump’s economic advisers baffled over how to hold off recession that his trade war set it in motion: report

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According to a report from ABC, Donald Trump's economic advisers are baffled about how to stop what appears to be a recession coming before the 2020 election after his trade war upset an already teetering worldwide economy.

With the report noting that Trump had hoped to run on a strong economy as part of his 2020 re-election strategy, warnings from economists that a recession may arrive before then has White House officials in a panic.

"The financial markets signaled the possibility of a U.S. recession this week, sending a jolt of anxiety to investors, companies and consumers. That's on top of concerns over Trump's plans to impose punishing tariffs on goods from China and word from the United Kingdom and Germany that their economies are shrinking," the report states, adding, "Trump advisers fear a weakened economy would hurt him with moderate Republican and independent voters who have been willing to give him a pass on some his incendiary policies and rhetoric."

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Race to remember Berlin Wall victims, 30 years on

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Where guard towers and barbed wire once stood, runners pounded the 100-mile (160 kilometer) path along the former Berlin Wall this weekend in a race with victims of the Cold War relic at its heart.

On Saturday at 6:00 am (0400 GMT), around 500 runners, started the 8th edition of the Berlin Wall Race, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Wall's demise this November.

With weary legs, most runners will jog through Saturday night, aiming to reach the city centre stadium which doubles as both start and finish, in the early hours of Sunday.

The race is part ultra-marathon, part tribute to those who died trying to cross the Wall, which the East German communist regime hastily erected in 1961 and stood for 28 years.

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