By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Will the government really shutdown on Oct. 1 or will Republicans and Democrats ultimately reach agreement on their bitter budget battle? The answer to that question depends on the outcome of a deepening civil war among Congressional Republicans. Speaker Boehner, bowing to the wishes of conservatives in his caucus, is tying the latest budget fight to a new push to defund Obamacare. That effort faces steep odds in the Senate. So steep, in fact, Sen. Ted Cruz suggested it was impossible, even though he's been leading the charge for months. His defeatist comments enraged some House Republicans, who hoped he would lead them into battle against the White House. So why does this matter? The only way for Republicans to prevail in this uphill fight is by keeping a unified front. Now, it is anything but. You can tell by the grinning faces of Democrats.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: In the short, mostly charmed Senate career of Ted Cruz, he's gotten his share of blowback from the Republican side. But the battle he provoked yesterday among House Republicans - not just leadership aides, but rank-and-filers who actually agree with him on the policy choices - is something different. Cruz's statement that Senate Democrats "likely" have the votes to preserve Obamacare funding, coming even before House Republicans take the vote he browbeat them into taking, struck some House members as lecturing from the sidelines. "Do something…" Tweeted Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark. "Wave white flag and surrender," went the Tweet from Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. It hints at rivalries and mistrust between the legislative bodies, and also some unease among Republicans about the path Cruz is leading them down. In the high-stakes game of funding for the government, members of Congress are already worrying about who will take the blame when the string is played out. So yes, Cruz is getting his way - but not entirely comfortably.
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: The powerful and well-funded conservative outside group, Americans for Prosperity, is taking to the airwaves again, launching their most significant television advertising blitz yet on the issue of Obamacare. Americans for Prosperity is releasing a new 60-second ad today featuring a Florida woman named Tricia who tells her personal story of surviving cancer. "The changes in our health care system are a big concern to me," Tricia says in the ad. "Obamacare is dangerous. It can't be implemented. Your well-being judged by a bureaucrat in DC is devastating." The group is putting real financial muscle behind their latest ad - $3 million, according to a source familiar with the buy. The ad will run in six states (Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia) between now and Oct. 1. "AFP will continue to lead the charge on the grassroots level in exposing the negative consequence of Obama's health care law," a spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity told ABC News. "Throughout the country, AFP state chapters have held an average of 75 events a month focused on the health care law." Here's the ad: http://youtu.be/Zk2d_liZqpk
DONNA BRAZILE TAKES THE "THIS WEEK" QUIZ: What's the Democratic strategist's guilty pleasure? Her favorite movie? Her heroes? See her handwritten answers below and be sure to tweet us @ThisWeekABC and tell us who you'd like to be our next participant: http://abcn.ws/189uC6D
COMBATIVE ASSAD SAYS HE COULD PROVIDE LIST OF WEAPONS 'TOMORROW'. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to deny that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, says he is fully committed to handing over Syrian chemical weapons to international control, and that he could provide a list of his chemical weapons stockpile "tomorrow," as Russia and the United States said they would expect him to do under their agreement reached last weekend, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. But perhaps the most notable thing about Assad's latest interview with a Western journalist, this time with Fox News' Greg Palkot and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was its surreal vibe. Despite the certainties of the United States and other Western countries, and the points raised by his interviewers, Assad repeatedly beat back at the notion that the August attack outside Damascus was perpetrated by his regime. And he appeared fully convinced of all he was telling the reporter and the former liberal firebrand, making for a strange and mildly confrontational window into the Syrian president's message. Here were the oddest moments: http://abcn.ws/1aMa9F6
MARK ZUCKERBERG ACKNOWLEDGES NEED TO 'DEBUG' HIS POLITICAL GROUP. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers in the House on immigration reform, but he acknowledged last night that a political group he founded to support the issue, FWD.us, has hit some snags in its foray into politics, ABC's ABBY PHILIP reports. "There's been a lot to debug in terms of making this work," Zuckerberg said at a question and answer forum sponsored by "The Atlantic." The group, supported by wealthy Silicon Valley types such as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, got into some trouble with progressives after it launched ads intended to give Republicans who supported immigration reform political cover by praising them for their opposition to President Obama's health care law or supporting the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline. The strategy was panned as "counterproductive" by liberal groups like Moveon.org and Progressives United, which participated in a boycott of ads on Facebook. Zuckerberg, a relative newbie to political lobbying, said the aversion to crossing party lines even on issues both sides support "shocked" him. "We've tried to get senior folks from both parties to come together and there have been interesting realities of that I was kind of shocked about," he said. "A senior Democrat would never want to associate with something funding Republicans." http://abcn.ws/16nDfGM
NOTED: Zuckerberg wouldn't answer most questions that might hint at his political leanings. Where does he fall on the political spectrum? "It's hard to affiliate as either a Democrat or a Republican. I'm pro-knowledge economy," Zuckerberg replied after a long trailing answer on a host of other tangentially related subjects. Who is the person he most looks forward to meeting while in Washington? After another long pause: "That's dangerous," Zuckerberg finally replied. http://abcn.ws/16nDfGM
CONGRESSMAN LAMENTS 'MAKING $172,000. - In a closed meeting yesterday, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who is also running for Senate, lamented that he is "stuck here making $172,000 a year" in Congress. The comment, which was confirmed to ABC News and first reported by National Review, came at a closed-door meeting with lawmakers during a discussion about potentially reversing the Office of Personnel Management's ruling that will continue to contribute to the health care coverage of members of Congress and their staff, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Several lawmakers expressed their concern about potentially having to pay this portion of their health care themselves if the OPM ruling is repealed. "Before you support this, go home and talk to your spouse," Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said reversing the OPM ruling could cost him $12,000 a year. "That's a burden. And it's a burden on our staff, too," he said. But Gingrey was less sympathetic to those concerns and bemoaned the fact that young Capitol Hill aides could become lobbyists in a few years "and make 500,000 a year." "Meanwhile, I'm stuck here making $172,000 a year," Gingrey said. (Members of Congress make $174,000 a year). http://abcn.ws/17KC4nO
JEB BUSH CAUTIONS GOP OVER EFFORTS TO DEFUND OBAMACARE. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush yesterday suggested that the chances of a Republican controlled House of Representatives defunding Obamacare are slim, but the risks are high to the Republican Party if they fail to fund the government, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP writes. "If you control one half of one third of the levers in Washington, D.C your ability to influence things are also relative to the fact that you have one half of one third of the government," Bush said at the National Press Club today. "That's the reality." Bush, who has frequently offered advice to the G.O.P that has strayed from the more conservative base of the party, added that as the country approached the real deadline for when the government runs out of money to fund its operations, the stakes would get higher for Republicans. Bush's statements are in sharp contrast to Louisiana Governor and Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Bobby Jindal, who said the effort to "repeal and defund is certainly a fight worth having." http://abcn.ws/14jxL2r
DUELING GOVERNORS: RICK PERRY VS. MARTIN O'MALLEY. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has his eyes on wooing jobs away from Maryland, but those jobs are staying put if it's up to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. In his latest economic development campaign, Perry traveled to Maryland this week to ask businesses to consider setting up shop in Texas. Perry has conducted similar campaigns in states including California, Missouri and New York, and has sometimes gotten under his fellow governors' skin with his blatant tactics. As he's done in other states, Perry infiltrated the television and radio waves in Maryland last week with advertisements touting the economic opportunities available in the Lone Star State. "When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas," Perry said in one advertisement. "Unfortunately, your governor has made Maryland the tax and fee state, where businesses pay some of the highest taxes in America. That's a job killer." But with Perry set to start his job poaching tour in Maryland this week, O'Malley fired back by penning an op-ed in the Washington Post laying out the case for "What Maryland does better than Texas." http://abcn.ws/18AmFU8
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
CHAINED TO WHITE HOUSE FENCE: IMMIGRANTS PROTEST OBAMA DEPORTATIONS. Seven activists chained themselves to the front gate of the White House lawn Wednesday in protest of deportations, reports ABC's MARY ALICE PARKS. "Not one more," they chanted. "Not one more." In 2012, the Obama administration deported 409,849 immigrants, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Opponents argue the record number of deportations is tearing families apart. Federal officials say they are simply enforcing the law. "President Obama needs to know the suffering he causes in our communities," said Tomas Martinez, a volunteer organizer with the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, which helped organized the White House protest. "We have organized marches, spoken to legislators, signed petitions, made phone calls, but we have to do more." Last June, President Obama announced a so-called deferred action policy that would temporarily halt deportations of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, completed high school, and have no criminal record. Immigrant advocates want Obama to now extend a moratorium on deportations to all undocumented persons. Obama ruled out a broader suspension of deportations in an interview with Spanish-language network Telemundo on Tuesday. "I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally," Obama said. "That's not an option." http://abcn.ws/18a3FQ8
@dcbigjohn: ICYMI, the Tea Party has taken control of the GOP in the House just in time for a debt default fight http://www.buzzfeed.com/katenocera/the-tea-party-takes-the-reigns-in-the-house …
@HotlineJosh: So Syria not complying with agreed-upon deadlines. Of course, it's out of the news now, so does anyone care? http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-syria-deadline-20130919,0,3368673.story …