A serious budget crisis is unfolding in the US, for the first time in 17 years. Because of contradictions between the two chambers of the Congress concerning the budget, the work of non-essential federal services of the United States will be shut down. Nearly 800,000 American state officials have been forced to go on an unpaid leave. It happened after at midnight, Washington time, (07:00, Kyiv time, on Tuesday) Republicans and Democrats failed to reach consensus concerning the draft budget for the new financial year. The healthcare reform, proposed by Barack Obama, became a stumbling stone.
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives insists that the approval of the healthcare reform, lobbied by Barack Obama’s Administration, should be postponed for a year. At the same time, the Senate, where allies of the Democrat president hold the majority, demands to approve it.
US President Barack Obama considers that it is irresponsible of the Republicans to politicize the budgetary process by trying again to broach the question, which was resolved during the previous elections. He says the shutdown of the federal government will have immediate negative effect on the wellbeing of a considerable number of people and may affect the post-crisis renewal of American economy. The president also emphasized that healthcare reform will be carried out irrespective of the discussion of funding of governmental institutions.
The Republicans, while they were discussing the draft budget, stated again that they consider the healthcare reform proposed by President Obama unjust. According to Speaker John Boehner, “This is an issue of fairness. How can we give waivers and breaks to all the big union guys out there? How do we give a break to all the big businesses out there, and yet stick our constituents with a bill that they don’t want?” The leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives Eric Cantor considers Obamacare a manifest of inequality.
The Day asked Ukraine’s former ambassador to the US Oleh Shamshur to comment on the opposition between the Republican-led Congress and the president, and who is right in this situation.
“The situation which had place during Clinton’s presidency repeats itself. Then he pushed to the end, till the work of the federal government was stopped, and Republicans backed down. After that the dynamics of relations between the president and the Congress changed in Clinton’s favor. The Republicans must remember this, and Obama is 100 percent aware of this. The president and the Republicans want to realize their own agendas. Now we need to see for a couple of days, who will be the first to go soft and yield to tension. It is hard to say who it will be.”
For which of the conflicting sides is it beneficial, taking into account the off-year elections to the Congress which will be held next year?
“True, the situation should be viewed in this context. The Republicans have a situation when on the one hand they, no doubt, take into account the opinion of their electorate which demands fiscal moderation and for the most part is against the Obamacare. Besides, they take into account that the ratings of the Congress and Republicans in the Congress are quite low. On the other hand, Obama must understand what he will benefit in this situation. On his second term, he is trying to appeal to his electorate. Therefore I think Obama is consciously exacerbating the situation. And in the next few days we will see who wins. At the moment I cannot foresee who will win or concede.
“A compromise would be a perfect version. Is it possible now? It is hard to say. None of the sides wants to look weak. Neither Obama, nor the House of Representatives, where the Republicans are in majority.”
What compromise can they reach?
“Apparently, there will be no clear compromise. Someone will look better, and someone will be the losing side. The House of Representatives makes one kind of decisions, then the Senate makes other decisions. And this tug of war may last for quite a long time. Another thing is that the shutdown of the federal government will affect the lives of many federal state officials and those who use their services. And Obama counts on this, just like Clinton staked in his time and won, and his conditions were accepted.”
As is known, during Clinton’s presidency the budget crisis in late 1995 – early 1996 lasted for a record period of time, 21 days. In your opinion, for how long will the current crisis last?
“Republicans have a tendency of approving of the bills which will enable the financial government to continue its work for one week and to make agreements during this period.”
What effect will this conflict have on Obama’s ratings?
“I think it depends on who has the upper hand. I feel that the Americans are already very much fed up with this opposition between the president and the Congress, when very important questions are not resolved. Obama’s ratings had somewhat increased, but they have dropped now. And the Congress has quite low ratings. So, both sides are facing equally high risk. At the same time, none of the sides, unfortunately, proceeds from common, rather than political, appropriateness.”
What impact can this situation have on the chances of the candidates of both parties to win in the next presidential elections?
“It is too early to speak about this. Everything will depend on who will take part in the presidential race. Neither Democratic, nor Republican camp has determined its position on this question.”
But Hillary Clinton is the main favorite from the Democrats.
“Indeed, she is, but she has not said her ultimate ‘yes.’ However, everyone expects her to say yes. Of course, at the moment she stands the best chances to become a candidate, because there is no candidate of equal strength as yet. But there are a number of factors, say, her age, because she will not be very young when the time of elections comes. Therefore it is premature to say what effect it will have on her chances.”
What can you say about the potential nominees for candidates from the Republican Party, specifically Ted Cruz, who has delivered a 21-hour speech in Senate?
“I doubt that it will help him to get nominated. There is another Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. So, there are people who can become serious candidates, better than Mitt Romney was. But as they say, there is eternity left until the elections. Let’s see how this year and the following one will end.”