News / USA

US Government Shutdown Looms, Budget Standoff Continues

House Speaker House John Boehner of Ohio, left, stands next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, during a break from work on the federal budget.
House Speaker House John Boehner of Ohio, left, stands next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, during a break from work on the federal budget.
Michael Bowman

While negotiations to fund the U.S. government continue behind closed doors, Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other over a bitter partisan standoff.  Without a budget deal, most non-security federal operations will be halted after Friday, when a temporary spending measure expires.

Although budget negotiations are continuing outside the public’s view, there is no shortage of commentary by congressional leaders on where talks stand. Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed Republicans for the budget impasse. He accused the party of rebuffing every Democratic attempt to reach a compromise, and continually issuing new demands to further slash federal spending.

"Republicans refuse to take ‘yes’ for an answer. Every time we agree to meet in the middle, they move where the middle is. They said ‘no’ when we met them halfway. Now they say ‘it’s our way or the highway’. We [Democrats] long ago accepted the fact that the only way to reach consensus [between] a Democratic Senate and a Republican House is to compromise. I wish I could say the same about those on the other side of the negotiating table," he said.

Moments later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell placed blame for the budget standoff squarely on Democrats. He said they failed to pass a budget for the current fiscal year, which began in October, when they controlled both houses of Congress before the Republicans took control of the House in January.

"Each year, the majority party in Congress is responsible for coming up with a budget plan that explains how they are going to pay for all the things that government does. Well, last year, the Democratic leaders in Congress decided they didn’t want to do it. They didn’t want to have to publicly defend their bloated spending and the debt that it is creating. And they still haven’t come up with an alternative to the various Republican proposals we have seen to keep the government up and running," he said.

Republicans are demanding deep cuts in non-security spending, with no tax increases, to eliminate America’s $1.5 trillion deficit over the next decade and eventually reduce a $14 trillion national debt. Democrats prefer modest reductions in social programs, deeper cuts in defense spending and tax hikes for the wealthy. Both parties acknowledge that programs that provide health care for retirees and the disadvantaged will have to be reformed, but so far only Republicans have issued a detailed plan to do so.

The immediate budget battle concerns federal spending for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends in September. But both parties see the fight as the opening salvo of a much larger budget battle to come, and appear unwilling to compromise on core convictions about the role government should play in society.

For New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, government functions should be kept to a minimum so that they do not interfere with private enterprise.

"Out-of-control spending jeopardizes our nation’s economic strength and costs us jobs. We cannot spend out way to prosperity. The reality is that government does not create the jobs. Small businesses and entrepreneurs create jobs. What we can do in the Senate is to help create the right tax and regulatory conditions to allow our businesses to thrive and grow," she said.

By contrast, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with Democrats, sees government as an essential promoter of the common good.

"The richest people in this country are doing phenomenally well," he said. "The middle class is in decline; poverty is increasing. Republican answer: more tax breaks for the very, very rich, lower corporate taxes, but stick it to [punish] working families. We are at a fork in the road. Do we develop public policy, which protects all of our people, which expands the middle class? Or are we at a moment in history, which moves this country aggressively toward oligarchy, in which you have a small number of people at the top with incredible wealth and incredible power, while the middle class continues to disappear?"

For months, Congress has kept the government running through a series of temporary spending measures, each enacted days before a threatened shutdown. The current measure expires Friday. President Obama has said it is past time for a bipartisan budget deal.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs