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2014年2月19日 (水)

米債務上限問題 不毛な対立の棚上げは前進だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 16, 2014
U.S. Congress takes step forward by shelving showdown over borrowing
米債務上限問題 不毛な対立の棚上げは前進だ(2月16日付・読売社説)

With the turmoil in the U.S. Congress over government finances having been settled at last, the danger of President Barack Obama’s administration plunging into a debt default—the inability to service government bonds—has been averted, at least for the time being.

The ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Republican Party have repeatedly clashed over the debt cap issue, and the resolution for now of the thorny problem that has shackled the U.S. political system can be called a step forward. We welcome the congressional agreement.

The House of Representatives approved by a majority vote last Tuesday and the Senate approved by a majority vote Wednesday an increase in the federal debt limit, with no conditions attached, on the statutory ceiling on government borrowing through March 15, 2015. The ceiling is currently set at about $17.2 trillion.

Congressional approval was made possible by major concessions from the Republican Party at the initiative of senior Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, that were in line with the assertions of Obama and his Democratic Party.

In October last year, a Democrat-Republican standoff prevented the enactment of the federal budget for fiscal 2014, leading to a partial shutdown of government organizations. Government liabilities subsequently reached the maximum allowed, threatening to cause the United States to default on its debts. Republicans came under particularly heavy fire from the public for continuing to take a hard-line attitude.

The ruling and opposition parties later agreed to temporarily nullify the debt ceiling up until Feb. 7 this year, but they failed to reach an accord to raise the ceiling in time for the deadline.

The congressional impasse came against Republican conservatives’ insistence that any increase in the debt ceiling should be met by spending cuts equivalent to the rise in the limit.

Republicans under fire

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned that the government, even if making the best of budgetary handling, would default on its debts as early as toward the end of February. It seems that renewed turmoil over the debt ceiling would likely intensify public criticism against Republicans.

Midterm elections will take place in November. Taking public opinion into account, the Republican Party may have found it advisable to lay down its arms at this stage.

Toward the end of last year, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to set the budget for policy implementation at $1 trillion each in the coming two fiscal years, thus averting the risk of another government shutdown due to failure to pass budget legislation.

The settlement of these two issues, which should help stabilize stock and other financial markets, should serve as a tailwind for the U.S. economy, for which signs of recovery have been becoming brighter.

Arguments of the ruling and opposition parties, however, have remained wide apart over how the government should steer its fiscal policy. There are said to be people in the Republican Party who still criticize Boehner for being “weak-kneed” toward Democrats.

As a result, partisan confrontation may intensify all the more toward the midterm elections and the 2016 presidential election.

Conservatives in the Republican Party, holding up the goal of “small government,” have remained steadfastly opposed to Obama’s health care programs for the elderly and poor.

We hope to see Democrats and Republicans constructively engaging in policy discussions over a wide range of issues, including measures to the benefit of middle-income families and steps for rectifying economic disparities in the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 16, 2014)
(2014年2月16日00時04分  読売新聞)


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