News / USA

Washington Week: Focus on Austerity

Michael Bowman
A federal budget showdown will consume Washington’s political oxygen when U.S. lawmakers get back to work Monday after a week-long recess. 

America is bracing for across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as a sequester, that will automatically begin Friday. 

“They will slow our economy.  They will eliminate good jobs.  They will leave many families who are already stretched to the limit scrambling to figure out what to do,” President Barack Obama warned.

The president has urged Congress to pass an alternative deficit-reduction package of targeted spending cuts and revenue hikes.

“These cuts do not have to happen.  Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little compromise.  They can pass a balanced plan for deficit reduction,” he noted.

But Republicans reject additional tax revenue, arguing the root of America’s fiscal imbalance is runaway spending. 

“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years, period!” House Speaker John Boehner announced.

As budget cuts loom, Democrats and Republicans are blaming each other.  Fear of voter anger over slashed government services has yet to spur a bipartisan substitute for the sequester.

Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to act on President Obama’s choice for defense secretary, former senator Chuck Hagel.  Republicans delayed a confirmation vote earlier this month, demanding more time to probe Hagel’s views on global affairs. 

“This is not about politics.  This is not about personalities.  It is about questions like whether Iran should be allowed to get a nuclear weapon,” Senator John Cornyn said.

Republicans have promised to allow a vote this week, and Hagel’s confirmation is expected in the Democratically-controlled Senate.  Votes could also be held on CIA director nominee John Brennan and treasury secretary nominee Jack Lew.

The full extent of the Obama administration's backing for same-sex marriage rights could be illuminated if the Justice Department files a brief in a landmark Supreme Court case.  Last week, the department urged the court to strike down a law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages.  This week, the department could weigh in on a case challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

“I think that same-sex couples should have the same rights and be treated like everybody else,” President Obama said a few days ago.

Gay rights advocates want the administration to argue for same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.  If the Supreme Court agreed, it could open the door to gay marriage nationwide.  The court will hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage next month, with rulings expected in June.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: ebharbison from: USA
February 25, 2013 9:06 AM
When I worked (I am retired), I was never allowed to take time off when there was a job that urgently needed to be finished. But, every time there is a crisis in our Federal Government, Congress takes a week off. Please, someone remind me why we pay these clowns!

by: Marcus from: Texas
February 25, 2013 9:04 AM
If you want this garbage to stop, we need to get the money out of the process. There is a far greater monetary incentive to please the base and the people holding the purse than there is a moral incentive to do what is best for the country. We need leadership, not manufactured reality-tv-style dramas.

by: Rodney Vero
February 25, 2013 9:03 AM
All these important items to consider and they all took last week off? If I did that, I'd be out of a job. Next election: "Vote for NO incumbent!" The lot of them need to be cleared out of these cushy jobs, lose ALL their benefits, and come join us in the economy they've created/continue to perpetuate.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs