An abiding impasse: There is little sign that US Republicans will cease to inflict deep damage on their country

The best hope of averting a new crisis lies in the 2014 midterm elections

Share

"We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.” Thus John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives and in theory the most powerful politician in Congress, after the deal that re-opened the US government and averted the calamity of a debt default.

The truth is somewhat different. Mr Boehner’s Republicans fought an ignoble and pointless fight that inflicted deep damage on their country. And to observe that his party did not win is putting it mildly. It achieved nothing of what it was seeking, most notably a postponement (read, scrapping) of President Obama’s signature health care reform. Instead it suffered a crushing defeat that – and this is the sole redeeming feature of the entire wretched episode – may just bring the party to its senses.

That outcome, alas, is anything but guaranteed. Judging by reactions immediately after the Wednesday evening Senate and House votes that ended the crisis, the ultra-conservative minority that has been holding America to ransom shows little sign of changing its ways.

In the meantime America must count the cost of this completely unnecessary exercise in futility. The $20bn direct loss to the US economy is only the start of it. Mr Boehner’s “good fight” has further poisoned the atmosphere on Capitol Hill, and distracted attention from far more important legislative issues, such as immigration reform and climate change. Then there is the damage to the country’s reputation and financial standing. Worst of all, the deal has settled exactly nothing.

The government is being funded again, but only until mid-January; the Treasury may borrow, but only until early February. There is absolutely no guarantee that the zealots, unchecked by Mr Boehner, will use these deadlines to provoke a repeat shutdown and a new round of brinkmanship on the debt ceiling.

True, under the agreement, a bipartisan joint House and Senate panel is being set up, with instructions to work out by 13 December a blueprint to balance the  budget, and thus resolve the arguments underlying this latest and previous  confrontations between Mr Obama and Congress. But few would give it much chance of succeeding where previous  attempts have failed, in reconciling the vast differences between the parties on taxes and spending.

Ultimately, the impasse is not economic but political, and will only be settled  at the ballot box. The best hope of averting a new crisis lies in the approach of the 2014 midterm elections, and Republican fears of a brutal backlash from voters.

A clear majority of Americans blame Congressional Republicans, not Democrats, for the autumn folly on Capitol Hill. If Republicans do bring about a repeat early next year, then they will surely bring down on their heads the electoral disaster their party both needs and deserves.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

How the French stay so slim while we British balloon can’t ever be reconciled

Rosie Millard
The plan could lead to up to 15,000 people being operated on annually  

The obesity crisis affects the whole of Europe... apart from France

Rosie Millard
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'