(Analysis) Congress finally passed a bill this week that allowed the federal government both to reopen fully, and to borrow funds in order to pay for spending on programs already approved by Congress. After more than two weeks of brinkmanship, the solution to a crisis manufactured solely by Congress – especially by republicans in the House of Representatives – leaves a potential for another showdown early next year over spending by the federal government. A crisis that was mainly manufactured by the Tea-party wing of republican members of Congress in an attempt to force spending cuts at the federal level, and to postpone implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, proved incapable of pushing either democratic members of Congress, or the President, to grant concessions on federal-government spending.
This continuing tactic by republicans of threatening federal government shutdown and default, in order to win concessions during political haggles over spending, is being observed by financial markets and by governments and other groups internationally – both friend and foe alike. A major credit-rating agency has already threatened to downgrade its assessment of the federal government’s credit worthiness because of these shenanigans. Foreign governments are reassessing their relationship to the US, specifically their reliance on our leadership in the world. Informing these reassessments is a belief that a country that cannot get its own house in order, so to speak, is a less credible hegemon than a country that is able to.
Local members of Congress reflect the dichotomy of world-views in the House of Representatives generally. Both condemn the brinkmanship in Washington over spending, but whereas Congressman Brian Higgins (D) concludes correctly that the problem is manufactured by Congress itself, Congressman Chris Collins (R) cannot resist an urge to focus on an alleged need for further spending cuts and deficit reduction, rather than simply to diagnose the political failures causing repeated crises in Washington today.
Until politicians in Washington learn to accept the express will of the people through elections, expect future recurrences of such crises, and further erosion of confidence in the US generally. Also, a very harmful aspect of today’s zeitgeist – reality not informing public policy – is also a contributing factor to ongoing disfunction in Washington. Members of Congress – especially adherents of the Tea party – should take to heart a statement by former President George W. Bush (R) after his reelection to office in 2004: elections have consequences!