US shutdown: Is Republican party really to blame?
Election in Virginia will provide evidence of who Americans hold responsible for stalemate
WITH no end in sight to the US shutdown, which has seen 800,000 government employees sent home without pay, opinion is fiercely divided over who is to blame. Democrats insist it's a 'Republican shutdown'; Republicans say President Obama's refusal to compromise over his universal healthcare laws is the real culprit. Here are five key questions about the shutdown blame game:
Who really caused the shutdown? In simple terms, it was the Republican party. Or, to be precise, "about 30 hardcore conservatives and Tea Party members who see the shutdown as a reasonable and necessary way to fight the Affordable Care Act [ACA]," says NPR.
Congress was required to pass a budget by 1 October, the start of the financial year. A Republican faction in the House of Representatives saw an opportunity to derail the ACA by attaching conditions to the proposed budget that would delay the funding of Obamacare by a year. Those conditions were rejected by Democrats and the first US government shutdown in almost 18 years was the result.
Who do Americans blame for the mess? Many Americans oppose Obamacare, but object to the way the Republican party has tried to derail it. An opinion poll carried out by Quinnipiac University and released on Tuesday revealed that 47 per cent were opposed to Obamacare, but only 22 per cent believed that closing down the US government was the answer. Asked if refusing to raise America's debt ceiling would have been a better strategy to stop Obamacare, 64 per cent of respondents said it would not.
Which party will be hurt most by the shutdown? The Quinnipiac University survey "confirms what many Republicans have worried about for weeks", says Yahoo News. "Shutting down the government may harm the Republican brand... and damage the party's very real prospects for holding the House [of Representatives] and retaking the Senate in the 2014 mid-term elections."
The state of Virginia is likely to provide the first evidence of any political fallout from the shutdown. The state is home to 170,000 federal employees and a poll to elect a new governor is less than five weeks away. The Republican candidate, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, is "worriedly trying to keep voters angry at Washington Republicans from taking it out on him," reports the New York Times. "Cuccinelli has a problem that worsens each day the shutdown continues and brings more economic pain to Virginians."
Are there divisions in Republican ranks over the shutdown? Yes, and they're deepening. Slate says the number of House Republicans who are "unhappy" with the party's strategy is "small, but it is growing". So far, 14 Republicans have publicly stated they would vote for a resolution to fund the government without any conditions attached, says Slate. It means that if Democrats can win over just three more Republicans (they need a total of 17 for a house majority) they would have the numbers to end the stalemate.
Do any Republicans admit the shutdown has backfired? Not publicly. But Slate says the party faces problems on two fronts: it is being blamed by Americans for the shutdown and its "divisions, fissures, and personal animosities" are taking centre stage. In pushing the US government into a shutdown, Slate says, Republicans may have found "the one gambit less popular than Obamacare".
US government shutdown: what happens to America now? 03/10/13
THE US government faces it first shutdown since 1996 after the Republican-held House of Representatives passed a measure on Sunday that would derail President Obama's healthcare bill by stripping out the funding to pay for it.
What causes a shutdown? Under the US Constitution, both the Senate and the House of representatives have to pass a law renewing the government's authority to spend money every year. If the bill isn't passed by the end of the fiscal year, which falls on 30 September, that authority elapses and many government services are suspended.
How has this impasse been reached? As USA Today explains, the Republican-controlled House has passed a spending bill that "maintains spending levels but does not provide funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare". The result would be to delay the introduction of President Obama's set-piece health reforms. The Democratic-controlled Senate has insisted that "the program be fully funded and that Congress pass what they call a 'clean' CR" — a continuing resolution that would fund all government business without requiring changes in policy.
How will the Senate respond? The Senate is "expected to reject decisively a House bill" when it arrives in the chamber on Monday, according to the LA Times. The Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has told the Republicans to quit playing "futile political games" and promised that the Senate would "reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government-funding bill".
What happens next? The New York Times reports that the Senate will simply remove the House's amendments and send a new bill back to the lower house. It describes that as "a plain budget bill, stripped of its provisions to delay the full effect of the health care law, repeal a tax on medical devices and allow businesses to opt out of contraception coverage for their employees". For this to happen Reid requires 51 Democrats to vote with him. According to Senator Richard J Durbin of Illinois, a senior party figure, the Democrat senators are unified and will put the ball back into the House's court.
Will the House vote for the bill? Maybe. Charlie Dent, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, said on Sunday that he was seeking cross-party support for a temporary spending bill before the midnight Monday deadline, with or without the additional measures added by the House over the weekend. "I'm prepared to vote for a clean resolution tomorrow," he said. "It's time to govern. I don't intend to support a fool's errand at this point."
If the US does go into shutdown how long will it last? Of the 17 shutdowns since 1977 "most last no more than three days" and many are over within 24 hours. However, in December 1995, under President Clinton, the country experienced a 21-day shutdown.
How have the markets responded? The BBC reports that “worries over the US shutdown had hit Asian shares” with Japan's Nikkei 225 index closing 2% lower, the Hong Kong Hang Seng down 1.5%, Australia's ASX down 1.7% and South Korea's Kospi falling 0.7%. "It is the fear of the unknown," financial expert David Kuo said. "No one knows what is really going to happen and markets don't like uncertainty…until that [the prospect of a shutdown] is resolved, we are likely to see volatility in the markets.”
And the European markets? According to The Times they are “tumbling” with the FTSE 100 in London down 55 points, or 0.85 per cent, at 6,457, the CAC 40 in Paris down 1.3 per cent and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt down 1 per cent. Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets UK, told the paper: “If investors had been hoping that common sense would prevail over the weekend ... then they would have ended up sorely disappointed.” ·