by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government shutdown entered its second day Wednesday as both sides dug in their heels with no end in sight.
Nonessential U.S. government employees were furloughed starting Tuesday after the bitterly partisan Congress failed on Monday to meet the deadline to fund certain government sectors, marking the first government shutdown in nearly two decades.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama cut short his Asia trip to return to Washington to meet with Congress, but as of early Wednesday evening there has been no progress toward a deal.
At issue is Obama's controversial healthcare law, as House Republicans made passing a budget contingent on delaying the healthcare overhaul for a year.
For Republicans, the move is partly a bid to shore up GOP base voters in the lead-up to the 2014 mid-term elections by condemning Obamacare and appearing to make an effort to delay the law's implementation, as many of their constituents are against the president's signature legislation.
Young voters, Latinos and blacks -- who often vote Democratic -- tend to turn out in smaller numbers in mid-term elections, compared to their turnout in presidential elections. So Republicans are betting they will not need the support of those groups in the 2014 elections, analysts said.
But the move is risky at a time when the GOP is making an effort to re-vamp its image, and the party must not overplay its hand by extending the shutdown too long, they pointed out.
"This is about consolidating the base. But at the same time ( Republicans) in some ways are playing with fire, because if this goes too long they could ding themselves in the next two elections, " Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua in an interview.
He added that Republicans are also concerned about the debt, spending and taxing that they believe will be triggered by the Affordable Care Act.
Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the longer the shutdown lasts, the more damage there is to the Republican brand.
"Polls already are showing that more people blame the GOP and view the party as extremists outside the political mainstream. A lengthy shutdown will produce long term damage to the party," West told Xinhua.
Indeed, a recent poll from United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection found that 32 percent of respondents said the Republican Party's main priority was "causing political problems for President Obama."
Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that the shutdown is being driven by the Tea Party members of the House GOP caucus, about 40- 50 members. These members come from districts that are overwhelmingly Republican, and would likely not face any difficulty in being re-elected despite their stance.
David Lewis, a political scientist at Frostburg University in the U.S. state of Maryland, told Xinhua that many in the GOP House see more political risk in "caving" than in sticking to their guns and letting the shutdown continue.