We learned way more about towel service in the House gym than we ever thought we'd have to know, at least since Anthony Weiner left Congress. We learned that it's always possible for Congress to reach "new lows," and that the Republican Party is capable of making history that direction, too. We learned that free money can rain down on Capitol Hill, but that staffers assigned to cleaning it up weren't furloughed.
At least, for now, the yelling has stopped. But it can start again. Here's a glimpse at some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
|DEAL OR NO DEAL?|
They've stopped calling each other names, finally. But that doesn't mean there's an agreement that will stick – or that the votes exist to deliver on such a hypothetical agreement. At the very least, the right will have another round or two to vent frustration over how a funding and debt debate has moved away from being a battle over the new Obama health care law. At most, the framework House GOP leaders brought forward could easily collapse under its own weight, leaving us back where we started the week. And next week brings a real deadline: Oct. 17 is the date after which the Treasury Department insists it will run out of creative ways to avoid calamitous consequences that would result from the United States not paying its bills on time. The markets seem to believe we've taken a step away from the brink, but it won't take much to spark another plunge – perhaps in advance of a potential default.
Even if the debt ceiling deadline is extended by a few weeks, that still leaves that little manner of, you know, the federal government. And even if an agreement can cover both, it's unlikely to pass Congress swiftly enough to turn government spigots on immediately. Week three of a shutdown will bring more pain than week two, which itself had a great impact than week one. It's one thing for federal workers to know they're working without pay, but it's another thing for them to start missing paychecks. Plus, programs such as food stamps, welfare, and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program will run out of patchwork ways to keep funding going, on a rolling basis. Finally – hold your nose on this – trash collection in the District of Columbia ends as of Sunday, according to city officials.
Whose GOP is this, anyway? At the heart of these fights is a battle for the future of the Republican Party. House Speaker John Boehner was dragged into a confrontation he didn't want, by a relatively small slice of tea party members of Congress intent on undoing President Obama's health care law. Now it's become much more than that, and party's moderate elements – including some big-moneyed backers – are making noises about wanting to reclaim it. Business groups are talking about funding primary campaigns against tea party members of Congress, stealing a page from groups on their right. These fights will carry over into next year's primary season – and potentially beyond that, as recent election cycles have shown Republicans to painful effect.
|STATES OF PLAY|
All the action (inaction?) is in Congress these days. But this actually is a great time to watch the governors. With their balanced budgets and ability to rise above legislative squabbles, governors could be among the few political winners in the ongoing Washington dysfunction. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been perhaps the most vocal in calling out Washington. Other 2016 GOP contenders – think Wisconsin's Scott Walker, and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, for starters – have found more subtle ways to put some breathing room between themselves and their stuck-in-DC friends. On the Democratic side, rising stars such as Maryland's Martin O'Malley and Colorado's John Hickenlooper will be pressed on whether their leadership would rival President Obama's. And it's the governors, of course, who have to live the consequences of a federal government shutdown.
Voters are voting Wednesday – yes, Wednesday, for complicated reasons that may or may not have something to do with Chris Christie's reelection campaign – in New Jersey, in an election that will almost certainly send Cory Booker to the Senate. A rising star will be reaching a new level, though perhaps not quite with the kind of landslide victory the political world has been expecting. Booker will give Democrats a 55th Senate vote again, though don't expect that to break any logjams on Capitol Hill. Keeping things interesting on the other side, Sarah Palin is planning a Saturday event with Republican candidate Steve Lonegan, a tea partier with no realistic chance of winning. Lonegan's candidacy has become a flashpoint in the GOP's identity crisis; Christie, who's cruising to easy reelection next month, doesn't want to be too close to his party's nominee in this instance. Palin, along with erstwhile Christie rival Rand Paul, has no such hesitation in coming out for Booker's opponent.