“There’s a lot of blame to go around and both sides get their credit,” former General Electric (NYSE:GE) CEO Jack Welch told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. “The relationships have just broken down.”
Welch was speaking, of course, about the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, which is now in its second day. U.S. equities, which advanced on Tuesday, edged lower on Wednesday as it became clear that Congress and the White House were making little to no progress on resolving the issue. President Obama met with the top four congressional leaders at the White House this afternoon, but it’s unclear if talks ended on a positive note.
For his part, Welch described the Republican strategy — that of trying to use the budget as leverage to defund or postpone the Affordable Care Act — as a “bonehead play … You’re not going to defund his signature legislation,” Welch said, referring to Obama.
On this front, there has been little progress. Democrats and Republicans remain firmly entrenched on opposite sides of the aisle, apparently only surfacing to throw rhetoric-packed grenades at each other.
On Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “What the president is asking Republicans in the House to do is quite literally the least they could do. He’s asking them to extend funding at the levels set in the previous fiscal year to keep the government open.”
In a USA Today op-ed, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote that “Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks. … This is part of a larger pattern: the president’s scorched-Earth policy of refusing to negotiate in bipartisan way on his health care law, current government funding, or the debt limit.”
Here’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaking earlier this afternoon.
Welch, like many other observers of the situation in Washington, seemed to express more concern about the looming debt ceiling issue than about the current shutdown.
“I think cleaning this up fast will only lead to bigger problems on the bigger issue,” he told Bloomberg Television. Welch suggested that after past shutdowns the government usually ends up compensating workers for lost time, “so the individuals who are being hurt will be taken care of, most likely.”
But in order to tackle the bigger issues — the debt ceiling and the destructive political divisiveness that threatens to undermine U.S. economic stability — policymakers will have to figure out how to act in a way that is constructive.
“It’s so hard because the Republicans think — a few of the Republicans think — they’ve got a winning issue on Obamacare, which we’ll only find out in time. And secondly, the president and Harry Reid think they can get the Congress back,” Welch said. “So we’re playing politics, not country.”