Dysfunctional Congress threatens another government shut-down

AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
Congress is up to bat again on budget talks for the upcoming fiscal year, and if politics were baseball we could be witnessing one hell of a strike-out in the coming weeks.

Should Congress fail to come up with a budget plan favored by both parties by November 17, the country will be faced with another possible governmental shutdown — the third one in under a year.

The White House says that the odds that country’s government will collapse are slim and that likely bipartisan politics will be swept aside this time so that a budget can be agreed upon, sparing the country from catastrophe. Should matters between parties cause for concerns over getting the budget passed in time, however, the United States stands to go broke — again — on November 18.

"After living through April and July, any reasonable person would have to say there's risk" of a shutdown crisis, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew said Thursday in a forum sponsored by Politico. "(But) I generally don't believe that Congress wants to be in that kind of a showdown. I'm optimistic they'll work through these issues and make the right choice."

Bipartisan differences in politician posturing have allowed a shutdown to come close twice already this year. With polls showing overwhelming detest for lawmakers and the president alike, Lew adds that Capitol Hill knows what they have to do if they want to keep the rest of the country happy.

"The American people have told Congress it's unacceptable," said Lew.

In a poll conducted by the AP in October, 82 percent of American said they disapprove of Congress’ current job.

Congressional dysfunction has already led to in-part the downgrading of the United States’ credit rating by Standard & Poor’s in August and given the volatility in markets worldwide, further hostilities between parties could prove catastrophic for the financial sector in the following year.

"The political backdrop in the United States will be notably toxic for the financial markets next year," Joe Quinlan, chief market strategist at US Trust tells USA Today.

Nicholas Olesen, a private wealth manager at The Philadelphia Group, adds that he has low expectations for a compromise in Congress. “We are in a stalemate,” he says.

Lew says from the White House that he still has high-hopes though, but notes that he does consider himself “an optimist.” He adds, however, that “there is a risk” of a shutdown but says it is slim.

As per a temporary bill passed in haste last month, the US government is only appropriately funded until November 19. Congress has been unable to pass a long-term, year-long compromise in over 900 days.