Melissa Block talks with regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution and David Brooks with The New York Times. They discuss the federal government shutdown, why it happened, what's happening now and what happens next.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: I'm Scott Horsley. President Obama took a rare trip outside the White House grounds on foot this afternoon. It wasn't because his driver's been furloughed. Aides say the president just wanted to enjoy the sunshine. He and Vice President Biden strolled about a block from the White House to a sandwich shop that's offering discounts and a free cookie to federal workers who've been idled by the shutdown.
Obama says that's a good example of the way the American people look out for each other.
Not long ago, the government shutdown was all about the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans' attempt to defund it. But in recent days, it seems to have become more about finding some way for House Speaker John Boehner to claim some sort of victory.
The White House has cancelled President Obama's trip to Asia, where he was planning to attend some major international summits. Instead, Kerry will attend these meetings while Obama deals with the government shutdown at home.
Day four of the government shutdown brings no signs of any progress in resolving the stalemate between Republicans and Democrats. It may be some small solace to know that this is by no means the first time the government has been largely closed because of disputes between Congress and the White House. In fact, by some accounts this is the 17th time that an impasse has shuttered federal agencies.
The health care law is partly funded by a tax on medical devices. Republicans and some Democrats from states with medical device companies want to repeal the tax. Leading Democrats say that's not happening if it's meant to scale back Obamacare. But the device tax could be an area of compromise later in a broader budget deal.
Thanks to the federal government's partial shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics skipped its monthly Big Reveal at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
There was no September employment report.
Without access to the BLS numbers, data junkies were left to scrounge around for lesser reports. Maybe if they could suck in enough small hits of other statistics, they could feel that old familiar rush?
Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 3:59 pm
Before President Obama canceled his Asia trip, some of us wondered how he could possibly leave the U.S., especially for the exotic resort island of Bali, during the federal government shutdown.
Forget the logistical complications caused by having so many staffers unable to work the trip. What about the optics of having the president at a lush tourist destination while hundreds of thousands of government workers were furloughed and worried about missing paychecks?
Obama solved that potential problem by canceling his overseas trip, which would have started Saturday evening.
Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 7:16 am
Happy Friday, fellow political junkies. Of course, it's hard to be happy if you're one of the more than two million federal workers either furloughed or working without pay, or one of the millions of other Americans whose lives are disrupted by official Washington's dysfunction. It's Day Four of the federal government shutdown, 2013 edition. And an end to the disagreement still doesn't seem in the offing.
On that grim note, here are some items of political interest worth mulling over this morning.
The government shutdown grinds on with no immediate relief in sight.
President Obama says he's willing to talk with Republican lawmakers about adjustments to the health care law and other issues, but only after they re-open the government and lift the threat of a federal default.
"I'm happy to negotiate with you on anything. I don't think any one party has a monopoly on wisdom. But you don't negotiate by putting a gun to the other person's head," Obama says.
Experts in negotiation say the president's stance may be justified, but it's also risky.
The partial shutdown of the federal government involves real lives, people out of work and also politics, the blame game. It's a wide-ranging story that forces news outlets to confront a familiar question. How do you present the story, remain even-handed and explain accurately what's happening? Here's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV NEWS BROADCASTS)
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: A lot of headlines and coverage has sounded something like this.
Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 6:04 pm
Congress: On Day 3 of the shutdown, a Washington made tense by partisan acrimony was put even more on edge by a bizarre incident. A woman who drove erratically near the White House and then the U.S. Capitol, causing the legislative complex to be locked down, ended up dead after a high-speed chase that left a Capitol Hill police officer injured.
Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 4:02 pm
Preston Bates considers the budget stalemate a good return on investment.
Bates is executive director of Liberty for All, a libertarian-leaning superPAC that last year spent more than $3 million helping to elect Republican congressmen such as Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan.
Those two are among the core group of House members refusing to support any deal that would reopen the government without delaying, defunding or destroying the Affordable Care Act, the health care law also known as Obamacare.
For now, though, we turn to the other big story of the day, and that's the government shutdown. We're in day three, and there's little sign of a compromise at this point. Republicans insist they're willing to negotiate on a spending bill to fund the government. Democrats say a short-term spending bill is no place to negotiate the new health care law.
Now we're going to sort through the various interpretations of what is or isn't going on to resolve the government shutdown with NPR's congressional reporter Ailsa Chang. Hi there, Ailsa.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Hi there.
CORNISH: So we heard the congresswoman mention these various bills the House is pushing to fund different popular departments of the government. But at the same time, Senate Democrats are saying no to a partial government reopening. So how are they justifying that position?
Before the shooting this afternoon, President Obama used an appearance at a construction company in suburban Maryland to press Congress on both the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling deadline. He warned that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the country would face an economic shutdown. President Obama again called on Republicans and specifically House Speaker John Boehner to act swiftly to end the government shutdown.
As Democrats and Republicans continue to blame each other for being unwilling to negotiate, a small group of House conservatives have driven the debate in Washington. Even though polls show the public is not happy about the government shutdown, conservative media outlets have provided plenty of support for Republicans on Capitol Hill. And they've rallied their community through TV, the radio and social media. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports.
Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 4:52 pm
(Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET with RNC numbers)
The government shutdown might be bad for federal employees, but it's turning out to be a boon for political fundraising.
Party committees and outside groups on both sides of the aisle have latched on to the latest Washington budget crisis, using the moment to rile their bases and fill their coffers for the 2014 campaign.
Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 1:30 pm
The Treasury Department is issuing a warning of dire economic consequences that could rival the Great Recession if Congress is unable to agree on raising the debt ceiling and the nation defaults on its obligations.
First there was the attention paid on Tuesday when a group of WWII veterans (with some help from Republican members of Congress and their staffs) ignored barricades and went through with their long-planned visit to the site.
Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 6:16 am
Good morning, fellow political junkies. As we enter Day 3 of the federal government shutdown, the impasse appears no closer to a solution. Nothing like a way forward seemed to come from President Obama's White House meeting Wednesday evening with congressional leaders.
But, then, we didn't expect much from it since the president's people said he wouldn't be negotiating.
A gate leading into the Joshua Tree National Park California is latched (though not locked) because of the partial government shutdown. Though national parks are technically closed, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/10/03/228719015/national-parks-close-as-other-public-lands-stay-open">national forests remain open</a> — they're too large to close.
Abbey Whetzel has a 12-year-old son named Sam who has been at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland for over a month. He has leukemia that is no longer treatable. And in this difficult time, one source of joy has been the therapy dogs that come to visit the sick kids.
"They can only come once a week, but it's the highlight of Sam's week," says Whetzel. But this week, she says, her son got some bad news. "They came and stopped in, and told Sam that the therapy dog wouldn't be coming because of the government shutdown."
All right. The partial government shutdown could take an especially painful toll on American veterans. The most serious consequences will not come unless the shutdown continues for weeks. Those consequences would include cutting off disability and education benefits. Politicians on both sides have scrambled to show their support for vets, but as NPR's Quil Lawrence reports, veterans applying for new benefits may already be suffering.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pauses outside the West Wing of the White House after meeting Wednesday with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As the leader of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid has been in a lot of fights — but this one may be different, in that Reid has drawn a line.
Throughout the weeks leading up to the shutdown, through four votes in the Senate with not a single defection from the Democratic caucus, and once again after the meeting at the White House, Reid has rejected any of the changes in the Affordable Care Act that House Republicans have demanded as a condition for funding the federal government.
Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 7:12 pm
Day 2 of the federal government shutdown found President Obama summoning congressional leaders to the White House to urge House Republicans to pass legislation to reopen agencies and raise the debt ceiling to avoid a first-ever default by the U.S. (Nothing was resolved; here's the story.)