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Larger US budget war rages on despite abated debt ceiling battle

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-10-19 11:00:46

While the US Congress cut a last-minute deal late Wednesday to avert a debt default, the larger budget war is far from over.

That is because lawmakers failed to address the root cause of the conflict -- namely, the sharp contrast in how each side views the role of government.

"The parties remain sharply divided over tax and budget policy, " Brookings Institution's senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua. "It will take another election to resolve those issues."

Recent days have seen Republicans push the country to the edge of economic calamity, as the party blocked the lifting of the US debt ceiling unless Democrats repealed parts of President Barack Obama's controversial healthcare overhaul.

The White House also dug in its heels, and critics blasted the president for not negotiating with Republicans on parts of Obamacare that the GOP argued would harm the economy.

Indeed, the fight over Obamacare is a battle in a larger war. While supporters tout the landmark reforms as providing health insurance to millions of previously uninsured Americans, opponents argue the law is inefficient, unfair and unaffordable at a time when the country is mired in 17 trillion US dollars of debt -- roughly equivalent to US gross domestic product -- with no major spending cuts on the horizon.

While Republicans have voiced concern over Washington's massive spending, neither side wants to tackle entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- three of the main debt drivers -- as doing so would be a bad political move and land politicians in hot water with their constituents.

Meanwhile, it remains unknown whether the United States will see a repeat of the debt ceiling fight on Feb. 7, which marks the date to which the debt ceiling was extended under Wednesday's deal.

But Republicans, who were blamed worldwide as acting irresponsibly for taking the country to the edge of economic disaster, were burned in their bid to gain concessions on Obamacare. The move badly damaged the Republican brand, and may cause the GOP to avoid the same tactic in the next round, analysts said.

Strategies aside, the war in Congress over spending is expected to rage on in one form or another. Both sides are expected to stick to their guns, and analysts said there are no signs of a resolution anytime soon.

As for another partial government shutdown, which saw non-essential employees furloughed for more than two weeks, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Thursday not to allow the government to shutter in the ongoing GOP fight against Obamacare.

Some analysts echoed those sentiments.

"I do not think there will be another government shutdown because the last one was a complete fiasco for Republicans," West said. "They gained nothing in policy terms and suffered serious political damage. "It would be crazy for the GOP to repeat the same strategy."

Last week Congress saw its approval rating dip to an all-time low, with a mere 5 percent of respondents saying they back the decisions of government leaders and the majority blaming the GOP for the partial shutdown, according to an AP-GfK poll.

Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that while numbers show that Americans are increasingly becoming moderate, identifying themselves as independents and wanting pragmatic solutions, the politics of Congressional elections emphasizes the importance of party orthodoxy.
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