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.
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.
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.