National briefs: Businesses urge rise in debt limit

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WASHINGTON -- As the U.S. government hits its debt limit on Friday, a leading business group urged Congress to act quickly to raise it to avoid damaging the economy.

The Business Roundtable sent a letter to House and Senate leaders Thursday night warning that "urgent action is required" to prevent a potential default as the Treasury Department was set to begin so-called extraordinary measures to extend the nation's borrowing authority.

Among those signing the letter were AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson, the group's chairman, and United Technologies Corp. Chief Executive Louis R. Chenevert, chairman of the organization's tax and fiscal policy committee.

The Business Roundtable letter comes after other nine other groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers Association, made a similar plea to raise the limit.

Biden weighs 2016 race

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden said he sees no reason why he shouldn't run for president in 2016 while giving no indication he's made a decision to jump into the race.

Mr. Biden made his comments on CNN's "New Day" program on Friday.

Mr. Biden said he'd make his decision sometime in the middle of 2015. If he enters the race, Mr. Biden may face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also is a contender for the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Baucus' sucessor

DENVER -- The Democratic governor of Montana on Friday appointed the lieutenant governor to fill the Senate seat left open by the departure of Sen. Max Baucus, a move Democrats hope will improve their chances of retaining the seat in November.

Although the lieutenant governor, John Walsh, had announced his candidacy for the Senate, Democrats and some political analysts say his new post as a sitting senator could help raise his profile with voters.

Friday's announcement by Gov. Steve Bullock came a day after the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm Mr. Baucus as ambassador to China.

Roberts fills court posts

WASHINGTON -- A judicial clerk announced Friday that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had made his first selection to the main Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court since Edward Snowden's revelations about spy programs that had been secretly approved by the court.

Of the 11 judges serving -- all appointed by Chief Justice Roberts -- 10 had been appointed by Republican presidents.

But in May, when the term expires for Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District of Columbia, Chief Justice Roberts has selected an Obama appointee, Judge James E. Boasberg, also of the District of Columbia, to fill the position until 2021.

The chief justice also selected Judge Richard C. Tallman, of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a Clinton appointee, to fill a vacancy on the three-member review panel that hears rare appeals of the surveillance court's rulings.

Hoffman's funeral in NYC

NEW YORK -- A funeral Mass for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was celebrated Friday at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church on Park Avenue in New York City, with dozens of acting luminaries turning out to bid farewell to the Oscar winner who died Sunday of an apparent heroin overdose..

Many of those in attendance had costarred with Mr. Hoffman, including Meryl Streep in "Doubt," Cate Blanchett in "Capote," Julianne Moore and John C. Reilly in both "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia."

-- Compiled from news services

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