US shutdown and looming debt crisis talks between President Obama and Congressional leaders fail to break the policy deadlock

Two issues become entangled as intelligence officials warned the situation 'seriously damages' their ability to protect the country

Washington

The first top-level talks to break the policy deadlock between Democrats and Republicans has ended without any sign of a deal to resolve the fiscal impasse that has crippled vast swathes of the US federal government.

President Obama had invited Congressional leaders of both parties to the White House to discuss the ongoing government shutdown and the looming crisis over raising the federal debt ceiling, due to be hit in just two weeks' time. Failure by Congress to approve an increase in the ceiling could force the Treasury into a catastrophic default on US debt, throwing global financial markets into turmoil.

But more than an hour of discussions at the White House ended with little sign of progress, with the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, addressing reporters following the meeting, saying: “We had a nice conversation, a polite conversation, but at some point we've got to let the process that our founders gave us work out.”

Meanwhile, top US intelligence officials warned the shutdown “seriously damages” their ability to protect the country. The current situation was a “dreamland” for foreign spies, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee, saying that some 70 per cent of intelligence employees had been placed on unpaid leave.

“This is not just a Beltway issue,” Mr Clapper added, referring to the Washington DC political universe. The damage was “insidious,” affecting the agencies capability, “to support the military, to support diplomacy, and to support our policymakers.”

Even before the afternoon meeting at the White House, attended by the majority and minority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate, it seemed unlikely the talks would open the way to a deal.

Earlier in the day, Republicans were maintaining their stance that any stopgap measure to fund the government, and thus end the shutdown, be accompanied by a delay in implementation of health care reform. Democrats, meanwhile, continue to insist on a “clean” bill, with no conditions, while time and again the White House has declared that 'Obamacare' - whose most important provisions are now coming into effect - is non-negotiable.

Other developments also pointed to a prolonged shutdown. In a curtailment of his Asia trip that starts on his weekend, Mr Obama is still to attend an Apec summit in Indonesia, but will skip the subsequent legs in Malaysia and the Philippines. This will see him back in Washington by the end of next week, as the debt ceiling deadline nears.

'Maybe this time I'll get a seat': A soldier waits for his train during rush hour at the Pentagon Metro station (Reuters) 'Maybe this time I'll get a seat': A soldier waits for his train during rush hour at the Pentagon Metro station (Reuters)  

The best hope of bringing an early end to the deadlock lies in the outrage of the public, and a rupture in the Republican party, held by Americans to be primarily responsible. So far Mr Boehner, fearful of a right wing uprising that could cost him his job, has refused to assert his authority over House Republicans. But a significant body of House moderates, as well as most Republicans in the Senate, argue that the intransigence of Tea Party and other conservative hardliners is leading the party to disaster.

Seeking to heal these differences and mollify public opinion, Republican leaders have come up with a new plan to restore funding in three areas where the shutdown has generated special fury - the national parks across the country now barred to tourists, veterans' programmes, and federally financed services in Washington DC. The anger was evident this week as visiting veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, broke through barricades around the World War II memorial on the National Mall, closed like other federal parks and museums.

But even if they are approved by the Republican majority House, the exemptions faced certain defeat in the Democratic-led Senate. “We want the release of all hostages, not just a few of them,” one Senator said. “Instead of opening up a few Government functions, the House of Representatives should reopen all of the Government,” the White House added.

In the meantime both parties are playing the blame-game, trying to win the crucial battle for public opinion. Republican hardliners believe that public dislike of Obamacare will ultimately win the day. For the moment though Democrats are far happier, confident that their opponents are on the wrong side of the argument. For the moment at least, that seems to be the case. According to the Quinnipiac poll, an overwhelming 72 per cent oppose a shutdown to stop health care reform.

In wonderland: The Tea Party’s shutdown stars

Republicans Ted Cruz (left) and Mike Lee (AP) Republicans Ted Cruz (left) and Mike Lee (AP)

Ted Cruz

The showboating Republican Senator from Texas has been credited with leading the Tea Party faction in the recent assault against Obamacare. Though he has tried to pin the blame for the partial government shutdown the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, polls show the majority of the American people are holding the Republicans responsible.

Mike Lee

Described by some as Cruz’s main ally in the battle against Obamacare, the Republican from Utah is one of the Senate’s most ardent public opponents of act. He has argued it is “not ready” to be fully implemented, and should be delayed and several aspects defunded. 

Michele Bachmann

Never one to mince her words, the Congresswoman from Minnesota and Tea Party stalwart has backed Ted Cruz’z efforts, and accused President Obama of trying “to get Americans addicted to the crack cocaine of dependency on more government health care”, according to the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.

Steve King

The fiery Republican Congressman from Iowa has gone as far as to say the shutdown may be a good thing, and that the stalemate will help clarify things for voters.

“This will be decided in the hearts and minds of the American people, who say hold your ground — we don’t want Obamacare — save us from that. Then we can hold our ground and get that done.”

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Teacher

£130 - £131 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ks1 teacher required for m...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?