Saturday 24 March 2018

Republicans have betrayed America, says angry Obama

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama
People arrive at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum after the US Congress approved an 11th-hour deal to end a partial government shutdown in Washington, allowing thousands of employees to return to work

Peter Foster Washington

President Barack Obama launched a ferocious political attack on hardline Tea Party Republicans yesterday, accusing them of betraying America by forcing a 16-day government shutdown that cost the economy at least $24bn (e15bn).

Hours after signing the legislation that ended Washington's latest budget stand-off, Mr Obama said Republicans who had "pushed for the shutdown" had succeeded only in creating a spectacle of poor governance that tarnished America's credibility in the world.

"It's encouraged our enemies, it's emboldened our competitors, and it's depressed our friends, who look to us for steady leadership," he said.

Mr Obama said the crisis had caused "completely unnecessary" damage to the economy, claiming it had slowed growth, seen households cut back on their spending and worsened the deficit. "Let's be clear. There are no winners here," he said. "The American people are completely fed up with Washington."

Speaking a day after Democrat leaders in the senate had called for an end to "pointing fingers and blame", Mr Obama pointed the finger squarely at Tea Party Republicans who had refused to raise the debt ceiling if he did not roll back parts of his signature healthcare reforms.

"You don't like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election," he scolded. "Push to change it. But don't break it. Don't break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That's not being faithful to what this country's about."


Mr Obama made the broadside as Republicans and Democrats were preparing to sit down for the first budget conference in three years to try to hammer out a longer-term deal.

Expectations of a breakthrough remain low, but talks could be crucial in avoiding another stand-off when the government funding authority expires on January 15 and the debt ceiling comes up for renewal on February 7.

Urging Congress to begin the hard work of regaining the trust of the American people, Mr Obama also challenged calls from fiscally hawkish Republicans for further deep cuts to discretionary public spending in order to rein in America's $16.7 trillion (€12.2tn) national debt.

"We shouldn't approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise, just cutting for the sake of cutting," he said, adding he remained open to a "grand bargain" to tackle the long-term issue of making the welfare system affordable.

"The issue's not growth versus fiscal responsibility," he added. "We need both. We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on, creating more good jobs that pay better wages." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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