S&P BOOSTS OUTLOOK FOR US GOV'T'S LONG-TERM DEBT: WASHINGTON (AP) — Standard & Poor's Ratings Services upgraded its outlook Monday for the U.S. government's long-term debt. S&P cited the government's strengthened finances, a recovering U.S. economy and some easing of Washington's political gridlock.
The credit rating service raised its outlook to "Stable" from "Negative," which means it's less likely to downgrade U.S. debt in the near future.
S&P also reaffirmed the government's "AA+" long-term and "A-1+" short-term unsolicited sovereign credit ratings. The long-term rating remains a notch below S&P's top grade.
S&P had downgraded the U.S. government's long-term credit rating in 2011 after a standoff in Congress over whether to raise America's borrowing limit.
Stan Collender, a budget expert with the Qorvis Communications consultancy, downplayed the significance of Monday's move. S&P's downgrade two years ago had no lasting effect on U.S. interest rates, the stock market or the value of the dollar. Long-term U.S. interest rates remain historically low — evidence that global investors remain confident in the government's creditworthiness.
Mary Miller, undersecretary for domestic finance at the Treasury Department, said, "We're pleased that they (S&P officials) are recognizing the progress in the U.S. economy and fiscal results."
Asked whether she was concerned that this action could take pressure off Congress to take further action on the budget deficit and increase the debt ceiling later this year, Miller said, "I haven't given that any thought, but obviously we would like to see progress on things like the U.S. debt ceiling."
Treasury is currently taking various actions to provide headroom under the current debt ceiling but it is expected to exhaust those maneuvers sometime this fall.
FEDS TO COMPLY WITH NY MORNING-AFTER PILL RULING: NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government on Monday told a judge it will reverse course and take steps to comply with his order to allow girls of any age to buy emergency contraception without prescriptions.
The Department of Justice, in the latest development in a complex back-and-forth over access to the morning-after pill, notified U.S. District Judge Edward Korman it will submit a plan for compliance. If he approves it, the department will drop its appeal of his April ruling.
"Once the court confirms that the government's understanding is correct, the government intends to file with the Circuit Court notice that it is voluntarily withdrawing its appeal in this matter," the department said in a letter to the judge.
Last week, the appeals court dealt the government a setback by saying it would immediately permit unrestricted sales of the two-pill version of the emergency contraception until the appeal was decided. That order was met with praise from advocates for girls' and women's rights and with scorn from social conservatives and other opponents, who argue the drug's availability takes away the rights of parents of girls who could get it without their permission.
Advocates for girls' and women's rights said Monday the federal government's decision to comply with the judge's ruling could be a move forward for "reproductive justice" if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration acts quickly and puts emergency contraception over the counter without restriction.