U.S. Political Turmoil: Congress Should be Aware of Damage to International Community

There is concern that the chaos in U.S. politics could undermine U.S. leadership in the international community and destabilize the world as a whole. The U.S. Congress should be aware of this point and bring the turmoil under control as soon as possible.

The U.S. Congress has been in a dispute over the government budget for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1. It has passed a stopgap spending bill through mid-November, narrowly preventing a temporary government shutdown, but the bill did not include funding for Ukraine support.

Furthermore, in a historically unprecedented move, a motion to oust U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been passed due to the rebellion of hard-line conservative members of his own Republican Party, which holds a majority of House seats. Neither the election of a new speaker nor the passage of a budget for the rest of November and beyond is in sight.

In addition to the conflict between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, infighting between the mainstream and hard-line members of the Republican Party has made the issue more complicated. It was a Republican hard-liner who proposed the motion to remove the speaker. In the vote, eight hard-liners voted in favor of the motion, which was also supported by Democrats who distrust McCarthy.

The hard-liners, who sympathize with former U.S. President Donald Trump, call for a halt to the Ukraine aid budget and an increase in the border security budget. Their attitude — that if their demands are not met, they do not care about a government shutdown — is irresponsible.

The current situation cannot be overlooked, in which a small number of Republican hard-liners are taking control of Congress and fundamentally disrupting U.S. politics because of a small difference in the number of House seats between Republicans and Democrats. It will be extremely difficult for the House to elect a new speaker in a little over a month and secure a budget for the rest of November and beyond.

The only way to make the House functional will be for mainstream Republicans to turn their backs on the hard-liners and join hands with Democrats, as they did when McCarthy led the move for the House to pass the stopgap funding bill.

The concern is that this will have a negative impact on U.S. support for Ukraine. A U.S. government official has indicated that the budget for Ukraine aid will be exhausted in a little more than two months if the current situation continues.

Ukraine, which is inferior to Russia in terms of military strength, has been receiving arms, ammunition and other assistance from the United States and Europe to counter the Russian aggression and promote its counteroffensive. The suspension of U.S. assistance will only benefit Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden held a telephone meeting with the leaders of the Group of Seven advanced nations and other countries and stressed that Washington will continue to fulfill its commitment to support Ukraine. The president himself needs to step up his efforts to reach out to Congress and continue the support system based on bipartisan cooperation.

The United States has been leading the international order based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Washington will not be able to fulfill this role if its domestic politics are shaky. It is hoped that each member of Congress will be aware of their responsibility to maintain international trust in the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2023)