BALI, Indonesia — Congress needs to think “long and hard about the message” the partial government shutdown sends overseas about U.S. credibility, Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday, urging lawmakers to “end it now, end it today.”
The furlough of U.S. government workers is imperiling American interests worldwide, including by delaying security assistance to Israel and potentially weakening enforcement of sanctions against Iran, Kerry told reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali.
Kerry is standing in for President Barack Obama after he canceled his trip to Asia to seek an end to the impasse with Republicans in Congress who are demanding changes to the president’s health insurance legislation. Obama’s absence meant he could not hold planned meetings with the leaders of Russia and China, which hurts his agenda in the short term, Kerry said.
Obama’s absence may add to growing anxiety in Asia that the United States is too preoccupied with internal political challenges to pursue its so-called “Asia pivot,” his second-term foreign-policy priority to enhance America’s standing in a region adjusting to China’s economic and military emergence. The U.S. is seeking to boost defense ties with the region and finalize the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Kerry insisted the shutdown won’t have a long-term impact on U.S. foreign policy or Obama’s economic agenda, calling it “political silliness” forced upon the country by the House of Representatives. He urged “all of our friends and foes watching around the world” to “not mistake this momentary episode in American politics” as anything more than that.
APEC leaders gathering in Bali understand Obama’s decision and would have done the same if they were in his shoes, Kerry said. Obama had been presented a challenge “by a small group of people within one branch of the United States Congress.”