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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The GOP has a long history of making their perversion of the rules of Congress the new normal. Lawrence Lessig says they’re ignoring the political responsibility the system needs to operate.
So you’re walking down the street, and a man steps in front of you with a gun. “Give me your money,” he says. “No,” you (perhaps stupidly) reply. “Give me half your money,” he insists. “No,” you insist again. “Hey, what’s the matter with you,” he says, outraged. “Don’t you know how to compromise?”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), walks to the House floor after midnight on October 1, 2013, at the Capitol. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
To most Democrats, the behavior of House Republicans in the current budget standoff is just like this. The Republicans have made a serious threat to an already weakened economy. If it isn’t resolved soon, the likely default on United States debt could be catastrophic. To threaten these fundamentals over a disagreement about insurance policy seems crazy to Democrats. Even worse, illegitimate. “By what right,” Democrats ask, “does a minority hold the United States government hostage?”
But the problem for the Democrats is that Republicans are not behaving like armed thugs, because their demand is not (yet), within our system, illegitimate. Politicians are free to support legislation for whatever reason they want. Subject to the rules regulating bribery, they’re free to demand whatever they want in return for a vote. Democrats might not like that the Republicans have this power. But their exercising it within our constitutional system is not a crime.
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?
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.”
Rand Paul is calling the shutdown a ‘temporary inconvenience’—and his party has said little about the kids with cancer, food stamp recipients, and others affected. That fits right in with GOP priorities, says Jamelle Bouie.
For Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the government shutdown is just a “temporary inconvenience.” The libertarian lawmaker is right that the shutdown is temporary, but I’d be hard-pressed to label it an “inconvenience.”
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty
Among the people affected by House Republicans’ refusal to fund the government are kids with cancer, who have been refused admittance for clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health; kids in Head Start; women who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); shipyard workers; domestic violence counselors; disease and infection trackers at the Centers for Disease Control; college students on federal work study programs; and hundreds of thousands of federal workers, as well as the communities who serve them.
Republicans have offered measures that fund specific areas—in particular, veterans benefits and national parks—but have had little to say about these other functions of the federal government. That’s no surprise. The substantive outcome of the shutdown fits broadly with House Republicans’ long-standing policy priorities: cuts to programs for low-income Americans and the preservation of retirement benefits for today’s senior citizens.
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.
It’s not just Democrats who are angry at the Tea Party-led shutdown. Republican donors are furious their party has managed to ‘grab defeat from the jaws of victory’ on Obamacare—and some are withholding funds, reports David Freedlander.
On a Monday last month, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, met with some top GOP donors for lunch at Le Cirque on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The donors, a youngish collection of financial industry types and lawyers, had some questions for Walden, a mild-mannered lawmaker from eastern Oregon known for speaking his mind.
House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speak to the media on the "fiscal cliff" on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.
“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”
The shutdown has forced the Treasury Department to furlough most of the employees enforcing sanctions on Iran, just as the U.S. is beginning new negotiations. Josh Rogin and Eli Lake report on the potential fallout.
With the government shut down, most U.S. officials enforcing sanctions on Iran are not at work, potentially undermining pressure on Tehran as U.S.-Iran negotiations recommence, according to administration officials, lawmakers, and experts.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference at the Millennium Hotel in New York on Sept. 26. (John Minchillo/AP)
The Treasury Department has furloughed approximately 90 percent of the employees in its Office of Terrorist Financing and Intelligence (TFI), which is responsible for the monitoring of illicit activities and enforcement of sanctions related to several countries, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea, Treasury officials told The Daily Beast. The drastic scaling down of personnel working on those activities comes just as the Obama administration is engaging in its first set of diplomatic negotiations with the new Iranian government, led by President Hassan Rouhani.
A subsection of TFI, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which implements the U.S. government’s financial sanctions, has been forced to furlough nearly all its staff due to the lapse in congressional funding, said a Treasury Department spokesman.
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?
With serious concerns that Amazon's 'Prime Air' would infringe on privacy, The Daily Beast's Abby Haglage explains why the drones are a recipe for disaster.
Few expected Mississippi’s senior senator to stand for reelection. Now he’ll be bringing the Republican Party’s civil war to another state, facing an insurgent from the right next June.