News / USA

    US Government Shutdown Missing Key Negotiations

    A furloughed federal worker, who did not wish to be identified, holds out a sign to passing traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2, 2013.
    A furloughed federal worker, who did not wish to be identified, holds out a sign to passing traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2, 2013.
    VOA News
    Unlike recent American financial showdowns, the two-day partial U.S. government shutdown has been marked by a notable absence of high-level negotiations to try to resolve it, although that could be ending.

    President Barack Obama has summoned congressional leaders for a late afternoon meeting Wednesday to discuss the stalemate that has left 800,000 government workers furloughed, halted many government services and closed 400 national parks and monuments.

    As the United States sought to defuse earlier government funding issues, Obama, a Democrat in the fifth year of his presidency, met regularly with Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. They sought to craft a grand bargain on government spending and taxation, but ultimately were unsuccessful as their supporters balked at various terms they were discussing.

    At the end of 2012, however, Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully negotiated a pact to avert widespread tax increases for most American workers, while allowing taxes to increase for some of the country's wealthiest people.

    How The Shutdown is Affecting Services

    • About 800,000 federal workers furloughed
    • The military's 1.4 million active-duty personnel remain on duty, their paychecks delayed
    • NASA is furloughing almost all its employees
    • Air traffic controllers and screeners staying on the job
    • Federal courts continue to operate
    • Mail deliveries continue since U.S. Postal Service is not funded by tax dollars
    • Most Homeland Security employees continue to work
    • Most veterans' services continue because they are funded in advance
    • National Parks and Smithsonian museums closing
    This week, however, U.S. political leaders have traded barbs over responsibility for the shutdown, each blaming the other for the first government work stoppage in 17 years.

    One presidential scholar, government professor John Gilmour at the College of William and Mary in the mid-Atlantic state of Virginia, said the shutdown has been provoked by Republicans. They are seeking to halt or delay implementation of Obama's signature legislative achievement, the 2010 health care reforms popularly known in the U.S. as Obamacare, in exchange for approving a new spending plan for government agencies. Obama and Democrats are continuing to defend the law.

    Gilmour said the two chief U.S. political parties were more polarized than ever, with little political pressure to compromise.

    "The Republican party is much more cohesively conservative, and the Democratic party is much more cohesively Democratic, liberal than ever before," he said.

    As the shutdown continues, some analysts suggest that the current impasse on government funding, might be combined with another key U.S. financial issue. That is the need to increase the country's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its financial obligations.

    Government officials said the U.S. would reach its borrowing limit by October 17. Obama said he would not negotiate over increasing the debt ceiling, because the U.S. needed to borrow more money to pay bills it has already incurred. But Republicans are seeking spending cuts in exchange for increasing the borrowing limit, and are continuing their fight against the health care law.

    A U.S. economist, Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics, said that increasing the debt ceiling was paramount, more important than the immediate dispute over the government shutdown.

    "The real, more critical issue ultimately is the debt limit. And certainly there is plenty of precedent for temporary shutdowns and they haven't been that disruptive for the economy in the long run. Of course, we've never not met our obligations.... And I think at the end of the day, they're not that irresponsible. The debt limit will be dealt with," he said.

    Political scientist Gilmour said the U.S. disputes would not be resolved until public opinion turned against either Obama or the conservative Republicans opposing him.

    "What will have to happen to resolve this is that it will have to become clear is that one side is either winning or losing in this. So if public opinion shifts decisively against either President Obama or against the House Republicans, then that would help to resolve this, and bring an end to the shutdown. But before that happens, I don't see the shutdown ending," he said.

    The government professor said he thought Republicans would "eventually have to back down." But Gilmour said he did not see that happening until the government faced possible cuts in pensions to older Americans because it did not have enough money to make the regular monthly payments. He said that point could be reached later in October.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.