Paul Koring profiles the most prominent players in Washington's political deadlock
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke during an Oval Office meeting Monday with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying ‘words are not sufficient’ from Iran on nuclear issue Charles Dharapak
Democrat, U.S. President
Democrat, U.S. PresidentWith no elections left to face and his signature health-care program up and running, Mr. Obama has nothing to lose by refusing to blink in the showdown with Republicans over the government shutdown. Americans are already tilting to blaming the Republicans, so Mr. Obama may hold the trump card of public opinion. But the President has an unfortunate track record of misjudging Congress – most recently in his call for support to bomb Syria – and he will need both the Democrats to hold firm and the Republicans to splinter. For Mr. Obama, the stakes are about his legacy.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, speaks to the media after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. Andrew Harrer
Republican, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Republican, Speaker of the House of RepresentativesWith a fractious caucus and a barely controllable, powerful, right-wing splinter group known as the Tea Party, Mr. Boehner needs to hold his restive majority together and – more importantly – convince the President that Republicans won’t split under mounting pressure. Some moderates are already publicly admitting the standoff isn’t winnable for Republicans, so the real challenge facing Mr. Boehner may be salvaging something so victory can be claimed. With another battle looming – this time over raising the debt ceiling this month – Mr. Boehner may be manoeuvring for future advantage. Losing might actually strengthen his hold on the Republican caucus by making plain the risks of over-reaching.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, speaks to the media after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. Andrew Harrer
Democrat, Senate Majority Leader
Democrat, Senate Majority LeaderThe wily, veteran senator from Nevada has crafted the Democrats’ so-far-successful defence in the current showdown. Mr. Reid has kept the Senate’s narrow Democrat majority firmly in line – rapidly and decisively rejecting each successive Republican-passed effort from the House of Representatives that would defund Obamacare as the price for keeping government operations running. More importantly, Mr. Reid has managed to avoid Senate Democrats being tagged as the rejectionists in the current Capitol Hill battle for tactical advantage. The former boxer has stuck with merciless jabs and solid defence.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) departs after a meeting with fellow Republican senators at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013. JONATHAN ERNST
Republican, Texas Senator
Republican, Texas SenatorCanadian-born, although he has gone to considerable lengths to insist he considers himself only a U.S. citizen, not a dual-national, Mr. Cruz has emerged as a major political force and a key strategist in the “defund Obamacare” standoff with the President. After a 21-hour Senate filibuster that endeared him – even more – to the Tea Party faithful, Mr. Cruz has been credited (or blamed) for the Republican tactic of offering to fund popular bits of the government, such as national parks and cancer research, in an effort to make the Democrats seem negative by rejecting the bills. But Mr. Cruz has also irked many moderates among Republicans who regard his gambit as a brazenly self-serving way to raise his profile ahead of a presidential run in 2016. Many Democrats are delighted to paint him as the new, true face of the Republicans.