US shutdown: Senate is last hope after chaos in House
Senate talks resume after House Republicans scuttle plans to end standoff and 'humiliate' John Boehner
THE US Senate is once again the focus of efforts to avoid a US debt default after two plans to end the deadlock floated in the House of Representatives were "scuttled" by hardline Republicans, the BBC reports.
Leaders in the Democrat-controlled upper House resumed work last night on a plan to raise the US borrowing limit and end the partial shutdown of the government. But it is still unclear if a plan hatched in the Senate can pass the fractious lower House, which in recent days has "raised pointless grandstanding to an art form," says the BBC's North American editor Mark Mardell.
With the world's biggest economy on the brink of a debt default, the Fitch credit agency put America on a "negative ratings watch" and warned it could downgrade the US government's AAA rating.
Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski told her colleagues that the US was "hours away from becoming a deadbeat nation, not paying its bills to its own people and other creditors".
Such sentiments have been ignored by a group of hardline Republicans in the lower House who "torpedoed" two proposals to end the standoff yesterday. The failure of both plans and the cancellation of a scheduled vote on ending the standoff marked yet another miserable day for the House's embattled Speaker John Boehner. America's top Republican has consistently failed to rally his party's rank-and-file behind plans to end the impasse, the US press says.
Boehner's latest "humiliation" took no-one by surprise, says Time. "In another era, for a different leader, it would have been a stunning rebuke," the magazine says. "For John Boehner, it was just another embarrassing stumble in a speakership studded with them".
The New York Times says there is now real doubt that a bipartisan proposal drawn up by the Senate can be passed by Congress and sent to President Obama before tomorrow's deadline.
"It's very, very serious," the senior Republican Senator John McCain told the paper. "Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable."
Financial markets still seem to believe an eleventh hour resolution with be forthcoming. The message from the US equity market is "keep calm and carry on... cautiously," the Financial Times reports.
But even if Congress does manage to pass a bill that raises the borrowing limit and ends the shutdown, it will only be a temporary solution. The deal being brokered is likely to fund the government until 15 January and extend the nation's borrowing authority until 7 February. ·