News / USA

Key Vote Looms in US Amid Polarized Political Atmosphere

Republican Representative Daniel Webster talks about the current fiscal budget during a crowded town hall meeting in Orlando, Florida, April 26, 2011
Republican Representative Daniel Webster talks about the current fiscal budget during a crowded town hall meeting in Orlando, Florida, April 26, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

Sometime during the next several weeks, the U.S. Congress will take up the issue of raising the nation's debt ceiling so that the United States can continue to borrow money to cover a national debt that will soon soar past $14 trillion.  The debate over raising the debt ceiling comes amid a highly polarized political atmosphere here in Washington.

The debt ceiling vote will be a high-stakes political showdown with national and international implications.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says that failing to raise the debt limit would lead to the United States defaulting on its loans, and he says that would be catastrophic.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Democrat Kent Conrad, spoke on the "Fox News Sunday" television program.

"This is a defining moment and we have got to decide as a nation," said Conrad.  "Are we going to do some things that all of us would prefer not to have to do or do we wait for the roof to cave in?"

Many Republicans oppose raising the debt ceiling, arguing that it is time to force the United States to stop what they see as a cycle of excessive spending and borrowing.  They say that any effort to increase the debt limit must be linked to deeper budget cuts.

Several of these Republicans won the support of Tea Party activists in last year's midterm congressional elections, and the Tea Party supporters are demanding that the lawmakers keep their word to cut the size of government or face their wrath in the next election.

Political analysts say all of this has led to a hyperpartisan political environment in Washington, one that former Senator Bob Bennett says he knows all too well.

"Well right now, if you look at it superficially, the town is really messed up," Bennett.  "And we are headed towards the question of whether or not we honor our obligations and pay our bills, or refuse to ideologically because that is the real impact of the vote on raising the debt ceiling."

Bennett is a Republican who was defeated in his bid for a fourth term at a party convention in his home state of Utah last year by more conservative opponents.

The partisan atmosphere that pervades Washington could make it difficult for Republicans and Democrats to reach a compromise - not only on raising the debt ceiling, but also in finding common ground on the federal budget for next year.

Mickey Edwards is a former Republican Representative from Oklahoma and a veteran of numerous partisan battles in Washington.  He retired from Congress after the 1992 elections and has spent several years in academia, including his current position at the Aspen Institute here in Washington.

"Party dominance now, party victories in the next election are so important that you have the two parties at war with each other all the time," said Edwards.  "The campaign just goes on and on, so it is always warfare.  And we are paying the price because if you are the enemy, I have to defeat you for me to be able to get anywhere.  It is really hard to sit down and compromise."

At the heart of the debate over government spending is a deep divide over how the two major parties view the proper role of the central government.

President Barack Obama and most of his fellow Democrats in Congress see the federal government as providing an essential safety net for the poor, the sick and the elderly.

Republicans, fueled by the Tea Party movement, see the central government as too big and inefficient, and a hindrance to economic growth that would benefit all Americans.

Despite the highly partisan political environment and his own defeat last year, former Senator Bennett says he is hopeful that both sides will come to an agreement on raising the debt limit.

"Campaigning is a lot easier than governing," added Bennett.  "Campaigning leads you into the area of slogans rather than solutions.  And I think many of these folks are turning out to be more serious than we may have thought.  So I'm an optimist that we will raise the debt ceiling and that we will not default on our debts."

Bennett's optimism seems out of sync with recent public opinion surveys that show about 70 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and nearly two-thirds believe the nation is in decline.

Members of Congress return to Washington next week after a two-week break.  During that time, many lawmakers will have held town meetings with voters and heard a lot about the debt ceiling, the budget and cutting government spending.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid