Republicans in disarray as US government reopens

Leaders of the Republican Party concede defeat after mounting a harrowing two-week fight over the cost of the US healthcare system.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
October 18, 2013 00:44
2 minute read.
US SENATORS John McCain and Lindsey Graham address a news conference in Jerusalem, 30 June 2013.

US SENATORS John McCain and Lindsey Graham address a news co. (photo credit: STEVE LINDE)

WASHINGTON – Leaders of the Republican Party conceded defeat on Wednesday night after mounting a harrowing two-week fight over the cost of the US healthcare system.

The party shut down the government in the process and brought America to the brink of default with little to show for it.

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The 16-day federal shutdown cost the United States roughly $1.5 billion a day and ended hours before the Treasury Department was to lose its authority to borrow.

“We’ve been locked into a fight over here, trying to bring government down to size, trying to do our best to stop Obamacare,” House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told a local radio outlet, referring to the Affordable Care Act.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.”

US President Barack Obama said on Thursday that there were no winners from the exercise in political brinkmanship, in a passionate speech from the State Dining Room of the White House.

“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it,” the president said. “There was no economic rationale for all of this.”

Obama said the scale of the damage from the crisis was not yet fully known. But bruises began to show on Thursday morning, as one leading Chinese ratings agency downgraded America’s credit rating.

“The fundamental situation that the debt growth rate significantly outpaces that of fiscal income and gross domestic product remains unchanged,” Dagong said in a statement, lowering the US rating from A to A-.

Republican Sen. John McCain called efforts to shut down the government by his Tea Party colleagues a “fool’s errand.” He said that the Republican Party faces its highest disapproval ratings in 20 years after appearing to manufacture the crisis, which seemed to large majorities of Americans to be without aim or strategy.

Ultra-conservative members of the party said they wanted to fund the entire government except healthcare reform. But this was not within their power – the Affordable Care Act designates healthcare a vital service, like Medicaid and Social Security, and it cannot be defunded through the budgetary process.

A registration website and hotline for the Affordable Care Act were rolled out during the shutdown, and the deal ultimately reached on Wednesday made only cosmetic references to healthcare reform.

“Was their temper tantrum worth $24b.? I don’t think so,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday, citing Standard & Poor’s estimates of how much the crisis cost.

Obama outlined future battles with House opposition in his speech, challenging the weakened Republican Caucus to address immigration reform, an issue that political analysts believe will benefit Democrats in elections if Republicans fail to unite behind it.

More than 800,000 furloughed government workers went back to work on Thursday, expecting back pay for their two weeks off.

The president thanked them for their service, adding, “What you do is important. And don’t let anybody else tell you different.”


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