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Shutdown Plans in Place for Months

Shutdown Plans in Place for Months Drew Angerer/getty

First planning meeting happened last year.

For most people, the current government shutdown probably looks like it arose from an opportunity quickly spotted by House Republicans. But according to new reporting from the New York Times, plans for the shutdown began right after the president was reelected. As soon as Republican leaders from over three dozen activist groups realized they weren't going to be able to get the Affordable Care Act repealed, they reportedly devised a "blueprint to defund Obamacare" at a meeting whose location still hasn't been revealed. "We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse," said one Heritage Foundation official. So maybe rumors of a vast right-wing conspiracy have some merit?

Read it at New York Times

SHUTDOWN POLITICS

Cruz: Tie the Debt Ceiling to Obamacare

Cruz: Tie the Debt Ceiling to Obamacare J. Scott Applewhite/AP

“Best leverage we have.”

Is this just hurt from last night’s “you can’t sit with us” moment with Ken Cuccinelli? Cruz said Sunday that Republicans should use the upcoming vote on the debt ceiling as “leverage” stop Obamacare. “We should look for ways to mitigate the harms of Obamacare,” Cruz said on CNN’s State of the Union. Congress is scheduled to vote on raising the debt ceiling on October 17, and Cruz called out the president for “jack[ing] up the country’s credit card with no limits and no constraints.” Seriously, is Cruz just unable to stop?

Read it at Politico

Stalemate

We Need a Hostage Negotiator

With Washington held hostage by the far-right, the shutdown crisis is stuck in stalemate. John Avlon talks to a former FBI hostage negotiator about how to break the deadlock. Yes, it's come to this.

With the government shutdown entering its second week and debt ceiling default less than two weeks away, polarization has turned poisonous and confusion reigns on Capitol Hill.

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Everett, Getty

“It actually reminds me of a prison siege,” says Christopher Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, as he surveys the dysfunctional congressional deadlock. “The opposition isn’t particularly organized. The smart move is to pick among the leadership on the other side who is the most reasonable. Then you empower them by talking with them and granting some sort of small concession. And they suddenly gain a lot of influence on their side.”

Yes, it’s come to this: Washington’s shutdown stalemate looks like a hostage crisis to high-stakes negotiators. And in their eyes, the inmates are running the asylum.

‘Borgen’ Logic

They Could End the Shutdown

The concession-making politicians on the stellar Danish political drama ‘Borgen,’ whose third season is now online, could teach our tantrum-throwing lawmakers something about compromise, says Andrew Romano.

Late in the third season of Borgen, a remarkable television series about Danish politics, the former (and perhaps future) Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg, played the stunning Sidse Babett Knudsen, enters the wood-paneled conference room of conservative leader Lars Hesselboe, her longtime rival. I won’t spoil the plot, because I know you decided to spend the rest of your weekend binging on Borgen the second you read the words “a remarkable television series about Danish politics.” Suffice it to say that Hesselboe and Nyborg are at odds about something very important. Denmark will prosper if they partner up, but they still can’t seem to agree on the details.

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Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (played by Sidse Babett Knudsen) shakes hands with conservative leader Lars Hesselboe (played by Søren Spanning) in Borgen. (Mike Kollöffel)

Hesselboe fills two cordial glasses with port. Nyborg hesitates, then sips, then recoils. “Unless you are willing to seek a consensus,” she says, regaining her composure, “[this] will be hard for us.”

Hesselboe looks away. He shakes his head. “It may be more pragmatic to negotiate with you from case to case,” he says. “To sign agreements with you, but allow you to stand on the outside.”

Defense Shutdown

Pentagon Keeps Workers Guessing About Pay

The military is supposed to be protected from the shutdown but many defense workers supporting the military still don’t know if their next check is coming, explains Hanqing Chen.

As the first week of the government shut down comes to a close, many Defense Department employees are still wondering whether and when their paychecks will come.

This confusion comes after an eleventh hour bill was passed to keep military personnel paid during the shut down. President Barack Obama passed the Pay Our Military Act on Sept. 30 to provide for pay for currently serving military members and essential civilian employees in the Department of Defense. But who exactly qualifies as an essential employee was never spelled out and is still being decided by the DOD while workers are left wondering.

Currently, around 400,000 of 800,000 of DOD’s civilian workers are furloughed, and four days into the shut down, the Pentagon has yet to tell civilian employees whether they will be regularly compensated under the new legislation.

Employees whose paychecks are currently in limbo include teachers at Department of Defense Education Activity schools, DOD emergency workers, and others directly supporting military operations. These civilian workers were all told to return to work on Tuesday morning by DOD officials.

Doing Fine

Investors Not Bothered by Shutdown

Investors Not Bothered by Shutdown Spencer Platt/Getty

Markets are just fine.

With the government withholding money from all but its necessary functions, you’d think the financial markets would be freaking out appropriately. You’d be wrong. The Dow Jones Industrial Average actually rose 76.10 points on Friday, and the 30-stock average declined just 1.2 percent over the course of the week. Investors seem to see the shutdown as no big deal—yet. Many reportedly don’t think this shutdown will go on long enough to be too much of a problem and are counting on the Fed to keep the economy going. But the debt-ceiling battle in a couple of weeks could cause problems. Said the president this week, “When you have a situation in which a faction is willing potentially to default on U.S. government obligations, then we are in trouble.”

Read it at Wall Street Journal

Fossil Furlough

T-Rex Skeleton Stopped by Shutdown

T-Rex Skeleton Stopped by Shutdown Toru Yamanka/AFP/Getty

Specimen won't be displayed at Smithsonian this month.

It’s not just humans—or even living creatures—that are getting furloughed: a rare Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is also suffering from the shutdown. The 68 million-year-old dino is one of just a few complete skeletons of the species and was set to be the centerpiece of a new exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. A sendoff party from the skeleton’s Montana hometown, which was planned for next Friday’s National Fossil Day, was canceled and the specimen’s arrival at the museum put off until next spring. Some creatures just can’t catch a break.

Read it at New York Times

Shutdown Foes

Who’s Really ‘Winning’

Republicans lashed out after an Obama official said the White House was ‘winning’ the shutdown fight, but the truth is no one’s winning—not the GOP, boxed in by its rhetoric, nor Democrats, says Jamelle Bouie.

Republicans, still struggling to turn the shutdown into something instigated by President Obama, got a small assist Friday morning when an anonymous White House official said the administration was “winning” the debate and that “it doesn’t really matter” how long the shutdown lasts.

 Federal Government Workers

Federal government workers hold a protest on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol to call for an end to the government shutdown on Oct. 4, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Getty)

Much like Obama’s “You didn’t build that” quote during the presidential election—which, it should be said, meant nothing for the outcome of the race—the comment in Friday’s Wall Street Journal has sparked a feeding frenzy among Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner  went to the press to declare: “This isn’t some damn game…The American people don’t want their government shut down and neither do I. All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness—reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare. It’s as simple as that. But it all has to begin with a simple discussion.”

Boehner’s request is nonsense. The continuing resolution isn’t the place for broad budget negotiations. Republicans don’t get goodies for allowing the government to run, as if it’s some kind of concession. Likewise, they aren’t privileged in their preferences for the Affordable Care Act. If the GOP wants to repeal or defund the law, it should build support, win elections, and pursue its goals through normal means. To do otherwise, to force legislative concessions through manufactured crisis, is to destabilize our system and damage the foundation of our democracy.

Trickle Down

Shutdown Hits the Private Sector

Define ‘nonessential.’ From mines to loans to oil fields, businesses across the country say they need federal employees back on the job to keep their work going. By Daniel Gross.

You know the adage. For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, triggering a chain of events that leads to much greater debacles. For want of a nail, ultimately, the kingdom was lost.

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on October 1, 2013 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

That’s a great lesson in leverage—how the removal of one small, seemingly insignificant item can trigger much larger consequences. It’s also a great metaphor for the way in which the government shutdown is affecting the economy.

Fox News may tell its audience that the shutdown is in fact a “slimdown.” Talking points may hold that the only federal employees furloughed are nonessential—useless, unproductive bureaucrats—so the effect on the private sector will be minimal. If you see the private sector as something that operates largely independent of government—a bunch of heroic entrepreneurs running around and getting things done as bureaucrats, politicians, and regulators try to hold them down—this view makes complete sense.

End Game

The Problem With Fantasyland


Despite every indication that they are losing the argument, some Republicans are optimistic about a shutdown’s payoff. In reality, they have no good options left. By Jamelle Bouie.

“I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re going to win this, I think” is what Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a private moment following a television appearance. It was a “hot mic” moment, and a candid one at that.

Congress Louisville Basketball

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

At least some Republicans, it seems, are optimistic about the government shutdown, which has shuttered almost every agency of the federal government and furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers. I can admire Paul’s confidence, but it’s delusional. If there’s anything the public has been clear on, it’s that they are resolutely opposed to the Republican Party holding government hostage to narrow political demands. Some 72 percent of Americans disapprove of shutting down the government over differences with the Affordable Care Act, according to the latest Quinnipiac national survey, and a CNN poll released Monday shows that Americans would be more inclined to blame Republicans than anyone else.

This reality, however, hasn’t made its way into the cloistered world of congressional Republicans. There, it is a winning strategy to criticize park rangers for blocking national parks—as Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer did this afternoon—as if they, and not the House GOP, are responsible for the closures.

Speaker Hamlet

To Be or Not To Be…A Loser

Boehner can keep the insanity going, or step up and bring a budget resolution to the floor, saving the country from economic collapse. It’s not rocket science, writes Joe McLean.

As Congress flounders and the clock ticks down to universal financial apocalypse, one small fact is being almost completely overlooked: the votes are already there to end the madness, and there are at least a couple of ways to get there before the government shutdown metastasizes into a default meltdown.

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Robbie Jack/Corbis

Democrats will vote for a clean continuing resolution (CR) and an increase in the debt limit. Those Republican House members not infected with the Tea Party madness will, too. There are more than enough bipartisan votes to break the deadlock, wrest control away from the GOP’s lunatic faction, and restore common sense to American politics, at least for a week or two.

Barrels of ink have already been spilled explaining why Tea Partiers have no incentive to compromise. Gerrymandered districts, primary challenges from the right funded by hugely rich right-wing dark-money cabals, and potential abuse from Fox News. But mostly, they are convinced Democrats are bluffing. They’re certain they can still win by going all-in with the threat of economic destruction.

Open for Business

Seven Shutdown Winners

What do Dolly Parton and foreign spies have in common? They’re among the few people who could benefit from the government shutdown. Nina Strochlic reports.

It’s hard to be a winner when the losers count kids with cancer and military veterans in their ranks. But in the days immediately following the federal government’s night shutdown, a few groups have been able to reap a very short-lived reward.

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Tourists cross the Potomac River while approaching Washington in a Big Bus double-decker tour bus on October 2, the second day of the government shutdown. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

From D.C.’s bar scene to foreign intelligence agencies, here is who won’t be hurting in the immediate aftermath.

Winner: Private Museums

Ill

The Doctor’s Out

Flu vaccines won’t be affected by the shutdown, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz on the most critical public-health task that’s not getting done.

The government shutdown has created a series of hardships and dangers for citizens coast to coast. One that is featured prominently is the threat to individual and public health. The stories of children prevented from receiving life-saving treatments, seniors who no longer can rely on certain services to maintain independence, and the plight of a scientific community unplugged are heartbreaking, embarrassing, and hopefully of sufficient emotional pull to force a resolution to this self-inflicted crisis.   

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ERproductions Ltd

Another danger—the threat of a runaway influenza epidemic unable to be contained by a crippled public-health complex—is also often featured on the list of scary potential consequences. But here, the impact, while very real, isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Unlike the sequester, which diverted money from actual vaccination programs, the shutdown disrupts an altogether different aspect of public health. The vaccine, for the most part, already has been made and purchased. Vaccinators, from the local doc to the local drugstore, are not really affected. Neither are most local vaccine clinics and school vaccination programs, which are paid for by local government. Yes, a few vaccination hotspots that will be shuttered and lives potentially affected, but the danger is larger than this.   

Free Speech Issue?

Memorial Visit a ‘First Amendment Demonstration’

Veterans who visited the WWII memorial on Day 2 of the shutdown were technically part of a demonstration and met by hordes of congressmen, explains Ben Jacobs.

Scores of veterans of the Second World War and Korean War, along with volunteers escorting them, streamed into Washington DC’s World War II Memorial on the National Mall on an unseasonably warm October Wednesday surrounded by well wishers, protestors and hordes of Congressmen. The veterans came for the second day since the shutdown as part of the Honor Flight program, which allows those who served to visit the memorials in Washington DC for free.

According to the National Park Service, the groups of veterans who visited the memorial as part of the Honor Flight program were participating in a demonstration and were free to visit the memorial in a way that regular visitors were not able to during the government shutdown.

The entire scene was rather bizarre, as the first group of veterans from the Kansas City area entered the memorial. Ninety veterans in blue shirts, about 25 of whom were in wheelchairs, went down the walkway into the memorial escorted by “guardians” wearing identical shirts, only in olive green. The shirts proclaimed their affiliation with Honor Flight and had the motto “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a veteran.” Congressmen swarmed around the area wanting to thank veterans. Some were there because their constituents were part of the Honor Flight——either in the initial group from Kansas City or a group from the Chicago area, which arrived at around noon—-others were just there for the spectacle.

According to John Doole who helped organize the veteran’s visit, there wasn’t any suspense as to whether they would be able to enter the memorial on Wednesday. It had all been worked out in advance. He just said that they had been told not to touch the barricades blocking the entrance; they should leave that to the congressmen who had showed up.  And, even if things hadn’t worked out, they had already arranged a backup plan, a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS).  In fact, Doole said that the veterans only faced one real problem in visiting the memorial. All the bathrooms on the mall were locked and while congressmen were willing to lift barricades, opening up public bathrooms was an entirely different step. Considering that the youngest veterans were in their 80s and many had significant health issues, bathroom access was very important.

Money Hungry

The GOP-CEO Lovefest Lives On

It’s all about taxes, friends. Taxes, and holding on to as much cash as possible, however possible, and whatever the consequences. Daniel Gross on the continuing insanity of the GOP-CEO lovefest.

Are the Republicans finally losing big business?

Not yet.

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Lloyd Blankfein has friends in Washington. (Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast)

On Wednesday, a group of Wall Street chief executive officers came to Washington to meet at the White House. At the end of the meeting, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein obliquely took Republicans to task. “Individual members of our group represent every point on the political spectrum,” Blankfein said. “But the one thing they have in common is: You can litigate these policy issues, you can relitigate these policy issues in a public forum, but they shouldn’t use the threat of causing the U.S. to fail on its obligation to repay debt as a cudgel.”

The Shutdown According to Everyone Else

The U.S. Government shutdown has ended and the debt ceiling crisis has been averted for now. Americans feel relieved, but how does the rest of the world feel about it?

inside the policymaking machine

Washington Bureau

'The World as I Saw It'

Mike Loffler spent 15 months visiting 20 countries around the world. This video, meant to 'showcase the people, nature, and spirit of travel,' really makes you want to pick up and go.

  1. The State of Saudi Intel Play

    The State of Saudi Intel

  2. Dirty Details of Russia-Ukraine Play

    Dirty Details of Russia-Ukraine

  3. Keeping Secrets From Kiev Play

    Keeping Secrets From Kiev

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