military death benefits OK’d
Hours after the Senate cleared it, President Obama signed a bill Thursday to continue financial benefits to families of fallen troops during the government shutdown. Final passage came a day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said a military charity, the Fisher House Foundation, would make the benefit payments during the shutdown. The lapse in funding meant the Pentagon had no authority to continue the payments.
Lew warns of treasury chaos
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew implored Congress on Thursday to raise the debt ceiling, warning of potentially severe market and economic repercussions if it did not.
In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Lew stressed that the Treasury Department would run out of “extraordinary measures” to free up cash in a matter of days. At that point, the country’s bills might overwhelm its cash on hand plus any receipts from taxes or other sources, leading to an unprecedented default.
Lew said that Treasury had no workarounds to avoid breaching the debt ceiling. “There is no plan other than raising the debt limit,” he said. “The legal issues, even regarding interest and principal on the debt, are complicated.”
He also said prioritizing payments to bondholders or others might not be workable, adding that the Treasury would face significant technical issues in trying to rejigger its complicated automated payment systems to pay certain bills but not others. “Our systems were not designed to not pay our bills,” he said.
some national parks may open
Under pressure from governors, the Obama administration said Thursday it will allow some shuttered national parks to reopen — as long as states use their own money to pay for park operations.
Governors in at least four states have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic effects caused by the park closures. All 401 national park units have been closed since Oct. 1 because of the partial government shutdown. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees have been furloughed, and lawmakers from both parties have complained that park closures have wreaked havoc on nearby communities that depend on tourism. Governors of Arizona, South Dakota, Utah and Colorado have similar requests to reopen some or all of their parks. Minnesota is evaluating the proposal.
Citizen tidies up memorials
Chris Cox, 45, a chain-saw sculptor from Mount Pleasant, S.C., grabbed the attention of shutdown-weary Washington on Wednesday when he showed up with a leaf blower, a lawn mower and a chain saw and was reportedly spotted mowing the lawn at the Lincoln Memorial.
He said the police chased him away, but it was too late. He said he had already been tidying up around the memorial and the Reflecting Pool for the past few days, because nobody else is.
“I figured out that I could play a … valuable role as a janitor, if you will,” he said. “So I started cleaning up the overflowing trash cans. … I found it my duty to be here.” He said he does not have a political position on the shutdown. “I’m not here to point fingers,” he said. “I only want to inspire people to come out and make a difference.