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Kerry: Prolonged Political Crisis in Washington Could Weaken US

The top U.S. diplomat warned Saturday a prolonged political crisis in Washington could weaken the U.S. globally.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he does not think that will happen. But he said if the partial government shutdown "were prolonged or repeated," people would begin to question the country's ability to "stay the course."

Kerry, speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (at Nusa Dua) on the island of Bali in Indonesia, said the U.S. government shutdown is a "momentary episode."

Meanwhile, the U.S. political stalemate over a partial government shutdown entered its fifth day Saturday. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is again set to consider piecemeal funding for individual agencies, but the Democratic-run Senate has rebuffed the effort and called for overall funding legislation to reopen the government.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in his weekly address Saturday that Republicans should not hold the U.S. democracy or economy "hostage over a settled law" they do not like. The president was referring to his signature health care reforms, popularly known in the U.S. as Obamacare, that are now taking effect.

Mr. Obama and his Republican opponents in Congress remain deadlocked on the shutdown that has furloughed more than 800,000 government workers - about a third of the federal work force - and halted numerous government services.



Mr. Obama tried to highlight the impact on furloughed workers Friday by visiting a local sandwich shop that was offering discounts to out-of-work government employees. Before ordering lunch for himself and Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Obama urged Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House, to allow a vote on a bill to reopen the government without conditions.

Until now, Republicans have been unwilling to approve a budget unless it amends or delays the health care changes.



"This shutdown could be over today. We know there are the votes for it in the House of Representatives, and as I said yesterday (Thursday), if Speaker Boehner will simply allow that vote to take place, we can end this shutdown."



Earlier, Boehner and other House Republicans demanded that Democrats negotiate changes in the law, which is now taking full effect.



"This isn't some damn game. The American people don't want their government shut down, and neither do I. All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness, reopen the government, and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare."



Democrats in the House said they will use a parliamentary maneuver to try to force a vote on a funding bill to end the shutdown, but would need some Republican support to carry out the plan. Such a vote could not occur before October 14, just days before the U.S. must increase its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit or run out of money to pay its bills.

Mr. Obama said he is happy to negotiate with Republicans and Boehner on "a whole range of issues," but not - in the president's words - "with a gun held to the head of the American people."

Republicans in the House Friday approved several bills to fund targeted programs, such as disaster assistance and nutrition programs for the poor.

Congress is also considering legislation that would assure retroactive paychecks to the furloughed federal employees.

One analyst, University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon, told VOA he thinks both Mr. Obama and his Republican opponents will have to compromise on their policy goals if a default is to be avoided.



"I think at the last minute there will be some compromise because neither side can afford to be seen by the public as being intransigent. So the Republicans will have to give up and say, OK, we'll settle for fewer tax cuts than we asked for and the president is going to have to say, I'm going to make some bigger reductions than I said I would make, because neither side can afford to have the blame pinned on them. They will move together and learn to live with each other one more time."



Federal workers classified as essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and many food inspectors, continue to work, as do many in the U.S. broadcasting services, including VOA.

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