From NPR West, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Arun Rath.
The U.S. government has been shut down for five days. Earlier today, the House of Representatives voted to grant federal workers back pay when the shutdown ends, but there is no sign that end is coming anytime soon. And frustration among those on the job is growing.
The Department of Defense is ordering most of its furloughed civilian employees back to work, in a move announced just after midday Saturday. The plan will put hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job next week.
"Today, I am announcing that most DoD civilians placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown will be asked to return to work beginning next week," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement.
Originally published on Sat October 5, 2013 1:58 pm
Federal workers who were furloughed by a government shutdown will receive back pay once they return to work, if a bill approved by the House of Representatives Saturday meets Senate approval. The White House has said it favors such a move.
The vote came after the U.S. government began the fifth day of a shutdown that has put 800,000 people out of work. The bill was approved without a vote against it. The Senate is expected to hold its own Saturday session that begins at midday.
Originally published on Sat October 5, 2013 9:45 am
The federal shutdown that has idled some 800,000 government workers could be over by now — if members of Congress were able to vote on a bill that doesn't include an attack on the new U.S. health care system, President Obama says. "There are enough votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government reopens today," he told The Associated Press Friday.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Officials are asking for patience from the public in the opening week of state health care exchanges. People across the country were supposed to get the chance to begin signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. But the online system has been overloaded since October 1st when the exchanges opened.
Even at the end of the week, NPR's Kathy Lohr reports that health care assistance in Georgia was still stymied.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The government shutdown upset more than the federal budget. It also disrupted members of Congress in their campaign fundraising. Across Capitol Hill, routine fundraising events are being cancelled. But the political parties and advocacy groups are following an old axiom: There is no time like a crisis to raise cash. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
Nobody says they like the government shutdown. Everyone says they'd like to reach some kind of deal. So, why is a deal so hard to come by? NPR's Senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Pleasure to be with you, Scott.
The shutdown of the U.S. government occurs in the weeks leading to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and it might be an inviting time to look at a book he published in 1956 while in the U.S. Senate: Profiles in Courage.
Kennedy profiled eight politicians of all stripes who crossed party lines or defied the sentiments of their constituents to do what they felt was right — at a cost to their careers. To cite a few chapters:
The Affordable Care Act has been at the center of the budget debate that has shut down the government.
Tea Party Republicans in the House have led the charge to try to repeal or delay Obamacare in exchange for funding the government.
They were cheered for taking on the health law by Tea Party activists across the country, including Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator for the group, Tea Party Patriots. Martin told Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon recently that Congress ignored the will of the people when Obamacare was enacted.
The work that Shaun O'Connell does is required by law, yet now he's sidelined by the government shutdown.
O'Connell reviews disability claims for the Social Security Administration in New York, checking that no one's gaming the system, while ensuring people with legitimate medical problems are compensated properly.
Billions of dollars are at stake with this kind of work, yet O'Connell is considered a nonessential employee for purposes of the partial government shutdown.
Many of the world's largest radio telescopes, operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, are going inactive — the latest casualty of the government shutdown.
NPR's Geoffrey Brumfiel reports that the NRAO, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and operates radio telescopes in West Virginia, New Mexico, Arizona and even Chile, will be pointing the giant dishes straight up, in the "stow" position.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.