By Desiree Salas
Regarding the talks leading to the conclusion of the shutdown, Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell summarized the Republican legislators’ political ordeal in these words:
"This has been a long, challenging few weeks. This is far less than many of us had hoped for, but it is far better than some had sought."
He’s talking about the deal that he and Democratic majority leader Harry Reid put together in order to bring the legislative standoff to a close and rescue the country’s financial challenges.
The agreement that McConnell and Reid created will finance the government only until the 15th of January and, at the same time, raise the debt ceiling until the 7th of February.
This temporary fix has caused a buzz among observers and raised talks about an encore of the political showdown. Both parties will be reconvening for a budget conference by the 13th of December.
The Republicans conceded to a loss in with the passing of the bill, which successfully sees the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – through its implementation without much modification, except for the addition of a provision that compels the current administration to enact improved checking mechanisms to monitor incomes of those applying for insurance exchanges. The Republicans has been staunchly against Obamacare ever since its introduction.
It appeared that the Republicans were divided among themselves, with some voting in favor for the bill and many others voting against.
“Unfortunately the Senate chose not to follow the House and in particular we saw real division among Senate Republicans. Had Senate Republicans united and supported House Republicans the outcome of this would have been very, very different,” said Texan Republican senator Ted Cruz.
Cruz’s Republican ally, Senator Mike Lee, shared the same views and is eyeing to fight back when the next opportunity arises. “This is not over,” he declared, giving away clues for a possible part 2 showdown.
President Barack Obama, when asked whether another standoff will take place during the next conference, said, “No.”
A preliminary evaluation from Standard & Poor revealed that the 2-week shutdown cost around $24 billion, or about $1.5 billion each day. With this analysis, the agency estimated that the American economy will grow 2.4% annually in Q4, instead of the previous 3% forecast before the shutdown.
Regarding the temporary fix, Standard & Poor’s managing director John Chambers said that the legislators will return in January “debating the same issues.”
"This is, I fear, a permanent feature of our budgetary process," he said to CNN in an interview.
President Obama earlier said he will sign the bill immediately after it has been submitted to him. He also admonished the country’s legislators by saying that they “got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.”
"Hopefully, next time, it will not be in the 11th hour," Obama remarked during a meeting with reporters at the White House.
Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, a Democrat, denounced the combative tea party Republicans for their “reckless, irresponsible politics of brinksmanship over the last few weeks.”
"It was not America's finest moment," he told CNN.
By Desiree Salas
In the run up to the government shutdown, some pundits have said that a situation like this won’t really impact the country that much. It has happened 17 years before, they said, and the nation ambled on as usual despite some disruptions.
But the United States of America 17 years ago is not the same U.S. of A today. As it is now, the country has just freed itself from the clutches of an economic crisis and has only started to get back on two solid feet. An event such as a government shutdown will shake this recovery and may even compromise it. Which means this situation is not good for America right now.
Even the Secretary of State John Kerry agrees to this pronouncement. He has said that if this shutdown becomes prolonged, the U.S. will be affected internationally.
President Barack Obama has recently pulled out of a pre-planned Asian tour in order to focus his efforts on resolving the government’s immobilization. This will surely affect diplomatic relations as it robbed him of an opportunity to strengthen ties with Asian nations. If anything, this is definitely one of those international affairs that have been affected by the current situation in the U.S.
On America’s own shores, tourists and visitors have been refused entry into certain museums and national parks due to the shutdown. That’s because government employees will have to cease working while Congress is still trying to reach an agreement.
Of course, not all those working in the federal government will be ceasing all work. Those in the healthcare sector have continued to operate as usual, although to a limited extent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, won’t be able to assist authorities in tracking outbreaks as some of its programs have been shut down while the government is also still in shutdown mode.
In addition, courts, mail deliveries, and zookeeping activities continue as usual, although to a limited extent. The same goes with the U.S. military personnel, although their salaries will be at risk of being delayed. Unfortunately, over half of the civilian staff in the Department of Defense have been furloughed.
Food programs currently face the risk of being discontinued as these have not received funding since the shut down started. Furthermore, those in the education sector said that if the shutdown goes on longer than the week, schools, colleges, and universities funded by the government will have cash flow problems and may ultimately compromise operations.
Overall, around 800,000 federal employees have been advised not to report to work as a consequence of Congress’ inability to come to an agreement. True, basic services still go on as usual. But in operating at a reduced capacity for a week now, is the government unwittingly leading the country to another form of crisis?
That remains to be seen.
RUSSIA’S QUEST TO REASSERT ITSELF AS A SERIOUS INTERNATIONAL PLAYER BY KEEPING THE WEST OUT OF SYRIA
By Aaron Elkin
The suspected chemical gas attack on the village of Ein Tarma located on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21 came as a stark reminder of the severity and brutality that has become characteristic of the now three year long Syrian civil war. Though not the only chemical attack that has been unleashed by Bashar Assad in the conflict, this attack stands alone with hundreds of dead and many more wounded and scarred.
At a press conference later in the week, Secretary of State John Kerry described the attack as a “moral obscenity” further stating, “"Make no mistake, President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people." The governments of both Britain and France have called for immediate action, and with the formal support of the Arab League for some military action to be taken; the world stage has never seemed so ready to engage the Syrian regime militarily. So why has nothing happened so far? And even if something does, why has it taken so long? The position of Russia in the conflict has served to protect the embattled Syrian president, seemingly to the very end. The reemergence of Russia on the international diplomatic scene is no surprise. In recent years, under the iron hand of Vladimir Putin the former Soviet Republic has come roaring back into international politics. Further, Syria holds a very special place in the Russian psyche. One of the last non-Baltic countries that still has a Russian naval base, albeit an astonishingly small and limited base at Tartus, Syria represents much more than a simple conflict for Russia.
If Russia seeks to reassert itself as a serious international player, they feel that they must oppose the US and the West against all odds. Even when the international community seems intent on taking action, or even more timidly, sending a strongly worded message from the U.N. Russia is more determined than ever to stand in the way. Months ago President Obama claimed that if chemical weapons were to be used in Syria that would constitute a so-called “red line” and would cause him and the US national security team to rethink their approach to the conflict. Well that time came months ago. And then it came again this week, but the only difference was that this time hundreds of innocent civilians were murdered. Perhaps the clearest understanding of the intensity of Russia’s position can be seen in their response to international condemnation of the chemical attack. Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said that, “Attempts to bypass the UN Security Council, once again to create artificial and baseless excuses for a military intervention in the region, are fraught with more suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” The characterization of what is now considered to be agreed upon unequivocal proof of the chemical attack as “artificial and baseless excuses” shows the sheer lengths that the Russians are willing to go to protect their ally. Or maybe their goal isn’t so much about protecting their friend Mr. Assad, but rather to make a statement. Like it or not, the days of a quiet, uninterested post soviet state are no more. The sleeping giant of Russia has awoken, and even though he is not quite as big as he used to be, he is hungry.