Debt ceiling crisis: the US reaction

What the American papers have to say about the on-going political crisis.

The deadline for the US government to raise its debt ceiling is fast approaching. While officials have said they are optimistic a deal will be reached, the last few days and weeks have been marked by intense partisan fighting, and splits within the Republican party as hardline Tea Party representatives hold their more moderate colleagues to ransom. Here is a selection of views from American commentators.

New York Times

Maureen Dowd holds the Tea Party accountable for the current mess:

Like gargoyles on the Capitol, the adamantine nihilists are determined to blow up the country's prestige, their party and even their own re-election chances if that's what it takes...

Consider what the towel-snapping Tea Party crazies have already accomplished. They've changed the entire discussion. They've neutralized the White House. They've whipped their leadership into submission. They've taken taxes and revenues off the table. They've withered the stock and bond markets. They've made journalists speak to them as though they're John Calhoun and Alexander Hamilton.

The newspaper's editorialis concerned about the emphasis on austerity amid sluggish growth:

The economy is in trouble, and Washington -- fixated on budget slashing at a time when the economy needs more spending -- seems determined to make matters worse...

[Growth has nearly ground to a halt] Nor are there persuasive signs that absent more government support, conditions will turn around anytime soon. Indeed, they are bound to worsen if Congress approves deep near-term spending cuts as part of a debt-limit deal while letting relief and recovery measures expire.

Washington Post

Peter Wallsten considers the implications for Barack Obama's presidency and the challenges ahead:

Averting possible disaster and signing legislation to make deep cuts in federal spending could hand Obama a quick boost -- particularly with the independents who supported him in 2008 but appear to be favoring a Republican in next year's election.

But success means achieving a politically precarious task: finding a formula to win over battle-weary skeptics in both parties and marginalize purist tea party conservatives and liberal Democrats.

Even ending the immediate crisis is likely to set the stage for more difficult battles this year over trimming entitlements and raising taxes -- a process laid out in both the House and Senate bills that seemed to be forming the basis for eleventh-hour negotiations.

LA Times

Kathleen Hennesy and Lisa Mascaro ask whether Congress is now too partisan to settle on any middle ground.

Again and again in recent weeks, the pragmatism that so often has resolved difficult problems in government has collapsed under the weight of ideology. Negotiations repeatedly have broken down at the point of real concession...

Political dynamics aside, former lawmakers say something fundamental has changed. The days of bipartisan socializing and interaction are gone. Many members make a point of spending as little time in Washington as possible, sleeping in their offices and leaving most weekends.

The result is a shortage of the personal relationships and political understandings that ease compromise.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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François Fillon's woes are good news for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron

It is too late for the Republicans to replace their scandal-tainted candidate.

It's that time of the week again: this week's Le Canard Enchaîné has more bad news for François Fillon, the beleagured centre-right candidate for the French presidency. This week's allegations: that he was paid $50,000 to organise a meeting between the head of the French oil company Total and Vladimir Putin.

The story isn't quite as scandalous as the ones that came before it: the fee was paid to Fillon's (legitimate) consultancy business but another week with a scandal about Fillon and money is good news for both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

The bad news for the Republicans is that Fillon is on the ballot now: there is no getting off the train that they are on. Destination: blowing an election that was theirs to be won.

Who'll be the ultimate beneficiary of the centre-right's misery? Although Macron is in the box seat as far as the presidential race is concerned, that he hasn't been in frontline politics all that long means that he could still come unstuck. As his uncertain performance in the first debate showed he is more vulnerable than he looks, though that the polls defied the pundits - both in Britain and in France - and declared him the winner shows that his popularity and charisma means that he has a handy cushion to fall back on.

It looks all-but-certain that it will be Macron and Le Pen who face each other in the second round in May and Macron will be the overwhelming favourite in that contest.

It's still just about possible to envisage a perfect storm for Le Pen where Fillon declares that the choice between Macron and Le Pen is a much of a muchness as neither can equal his transformative programme for France, Macron makes some 11th-hour blunder which keeps his voters at home and a terrorist attack or a riot gets the National Front's voters fired up and to the polling stations for the second round.

But while it's possible he could still come unstuck, it looks likely that despite everything we've thought these last three years, the French presidency won't swing back to the right in 2017.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.