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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid