Barack Obama tells Congress: 'There are no winners' in US Government shutdown battle

President chastises politicians for the 'unnecessary' damage done to America's prestige and economy

A stern-faced Barack Obama bluntly chastised Congress on the “unnecessary” damage done to America’s prestige and to its economy by the budget and debt ceiling stand-off that was only resolved late Thursday night and lectured members on stopping their habit of treating government “as an enemy”.

“Let’s be clear, there are no winners here ,” said Mr Obama, who just after midnight had signed the frantically negotiated stop-gap bill to re-open America’s shuttered government and give the US Treasury the authority to begin borrowing again. “The American people are completely fed up with Washington.”

Barely was the president’s ink dry on the bill ending the October agony than the four members of a bi-partisan committee created by it to try to seek by 13 December a long-term solution to America’s spending priorities had a first meeting amid public expressions of optimism but private feelings of dread that its fate will be the same of so many committees before it: deadlock, followed by more dysfunction.

Headed by two members of the Senate and two members of the House from each of the parties – Senator Patty Marray and Rep. Chris Van Hollen for the Democrats and Senator Jeff Sessions and Rep. Paul Ryan for the Republicans – the purpose of the committee is to bridge the gap between draft budgets that their respective chambers put forward earlier this year but which are separated by more than $90 billion in spending over the fiscal year.

With their breakfast gathering, the four members seemed intent on sending the message that Congress – as Mr Obama was later to demand – was putting the stand-off behind it and resuming its usual responsibilities.

“Let’s understand what we’re doing here, we’re going back to regular order,” Mr Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, told reporters. “This is the budget process… This is how the founders envisioned the budget process. We want to get back to that. We haven’t had a budget conference since 2009 and we so think it’s high time we start talking together trying to reconcile our differences.”

But then Mr Ryan, who has a chance to rebuild a standing that has slipped since he ran as number two on the Republican ticket last year, added: “It’s premature to get into exactly how we’re going to do that.”

No sooner will the hangover of the last weeks clear in Washington than reality will set in that the bill signed by Mr Obama is a reprieve and nothing more. If Mr Ryan and his colleagues are not seen to make some progress quickly fear will return that extremists in both parties will dig in. Thursday’s truce extends the borrowing authority only until 7 February and provides money for the budget only until mid-January.

But what ails Washington is more than the just wide span of ideological differences. It is also about the sheer difficulty of finding a way to address what almost everyone – Mr Obama and the Democrats included – recognises must be addressed, getting control of spending and deficits over the long term, when one side is simply dead set against raising taxes and the other side is similarly unable to countenance any serious curtailing of government service and paring of the safety net, notably in social security and Medicare.

Making things worse, as ever, are the powerful lobby groups in town that threaten political oblivion to politicians who don’t heed them. This is especially so for Republicans often less in fear of Democrat challengers in their districts – the mid-term congressional races are now less than a year away – than of more extreme members of their own party preparing to challenge them in the primaries that come first.

It was Heritage Action, a right wing action group in Washington, warning conservative Republicans not to support a version of a bill to end the stand-off tabled by speaker John Boehner – and saying it would identify them if they did so when they ran for re-election – that led to it falling apart on Tuesday night. The result: the Senate stepped in with its bill that achieved even less of what conservatives were seeking.

In these circumstances, any words, however wise, from Mr Obama on the need for more bi-partisanship is unlikely to have any real impact. But, standing in the state dining room in the White House, he delivered them anyway. “Understand that how business is done in this town has to change,” he said. “Let’s work together to make government work better instead of treating it as enemy or purposefully making it worse.”

Ms Murray nonetheless said it would be job of the newly created committee to try. “Chairman Ryan knows I’m not going to vote for his budget, and I know he’s not going to vote for mine,” she said at a press conference. “We’re going to find the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on and that’s our goal.”

While there was global relief that the immediate crisis was over, China’s official Xihhau news agency saw only further dysfunction ahead, declaring the deal merely makes “the fuse of the US debt bomb one inch longer.” In another of its increasingly scathing editorials about American political deadlock it added: “Politicians in Washington have done nothing substantial but postponing once again the final bankruptcy of global confidence in the US financial system and the intactness of dollar investment”.

Federal workers return to posts

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers headed back to work in the Washington area after a 16-day government shutdown that barricaded national parks and monuments; halted programmes serving veterans and cancer patients; and cast an unnatural quiet onto America’s capital city.

When the Metrorail system opened, eight-car-long trains were once again in use after two weeks of six-car trains because of a decline in federal commuters.

The World War II Memorial was quiet save for a handful of cameramen, an occasional jogger and Adam Schwartz, who waded through the pool of water at the centre, sweeping the bottom clean with a broom.

Mr Schwartz had not been authorised to clean the pool during the shutdown. He began work at 6am, scooping leaves and dirt from the water. “The key is to make it crystal clear again,” Mr Schwartz said. “For the veterans.” 

Dana Hedgpeth

© The Washington Post

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HLTA - Higher Level Teaching Assistant

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teacher requi...

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London