By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: So what's the endgame? That's a question we're hearing over and over from Senate Republicans, many of whom increasingly believe they're being led off a cliff by Ted Cruz and a naïve coalition of Republicans who are raising expectations among conservative activists that cannot be met. After the House sends the continuing budget resolution to the Senate later today, the ball will be in the court of Senate Republicans. Has Cruz been backed into a corner to fight? Or will the pressure from his GOP colleagues be strong enough next week to avoid a filibuster - and that cliff. This is yet another test of whether the Senate is still the saucer to cool the hot tea brewed over in the House.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The worst kinds of clashes come when both sides think they're right. In this case, they know it - and they keep hearing it from the constituents they're in touch with back at home. Not surprisingly, the new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows perceptions of the new health care law splitting rather neatly along party lines. And those who believe it's a disaster really, really believe it: 52 percent of Obamacare opponents back Congress shutting down the government to block it, compared to only 27 percent support for that overall. In this context, it's little wonder that blocking the law has become a GOP obsession. While this question isn't polled, you can easily believe that the most vocal constituents on the matter - including, say, the ones who vote in Republican primaries - are even more fired up on the subject. This fight is bigger than even funding the government or blasting through the debt ceiling. It's about trying to dismantle a core Democratic accomplishment, perhaps the biggest of President Obama's time in office.
OBAMACARE ARRIVES THREE YEARS LATER, LITTLE UNDERSTOOD AND NOT WELL-LIKED. More than three years after Obamacare was signed into law and fewer than two weeks before its health insurance exchanges are to launch, many Americans don't know a lot about the pending changes except this: They don't much like them, ABC's DAMLA ERGUN notes. Sixty-two percent in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll say they lack the information needed to understand the changes that will take effect as the Affordable Care Act is implemented. Barely one in 10, moreover, thinks the federal government, their state government or the health insurance industry is fully prepared to implement the law. On the law itself, moreover, 52 percent are opposed, vs. 42 percent in support; in 16 ABC-Post polls since August 2009, it has never received majority support. Fifty-five percent, further, disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling implementation of the law, with "strong" disapprovers outnumbering strong approvers by a 23-point margin. And Obama and the Republicans in Congress essentially are tied in trust to handle its implementation, 41-38 percent, respectively, with most of the rest saying they trust neither. http://abcn.ws/16d9Ipp
-ARE WE READY? In terms of readiness, majorities in the new ABC News-Washington Post poll think the federal government and their state governments are unprepared for the law, with those who say they are entirely unprepared outnumbering those saying they're fully prepared by more than 2-1. Americans split on the overall readiness of the insurance industry but, again more say it's entirely unprepared (20 percent) than see it as fully prepared (10 percent).
FACT CHECK: IS OBAMACARE SLOWING GROWTH OF HEALTH COSTS? Is Obamacare helping to lower health care costs or drive them up? Yesterday President Obama made one of his boldest claims yet on that question: asserting that the Affordable Care Act, in just three years, has helped slow the growth of health costs to the lowest rates in decades, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports. "Thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, also known as 'Obamacare,' the cost of health care is now growing at the slowest rate in 50 years," Obama said in remarks to his Export Council. The president made the claim as part of a broader case that his policies - including helping to stabilize health costs - have made American businesses more competitive. http://abcn.ws/15FVkn2
-TRUE OR FALSE? Obama's claim on the historically low growth rates for health costs is true, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and CMS data. National health spending grew by 3.9 percent from 2009 through 2011, and near 4 percent in 2012; it's projected to grow at a similar rate through 2013. Those are the lowest rates since the government started keeping track in 1960. But many independent experts believe the slowdown is largely due to the economy and a contraction of spending during the recession. The role of Affordable Care Act has been limited and hard to measure, they say. "I think the ACA is responsible, indirectly, for a good bit of what the economy doesn't explain," said Larry Levitt, a leading analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation. "But the precise impacts can't be proven." An April 2013 Kaiser analysis concluded "the vast majority (77 percent) of the recent decline in the health spending trend can be attributed to broader changes in the economy. At the same time, however, there are also indications that structural changes in the health system may be playing a modest role as well." http://abcn.ws/15FVkn2
CAN MICHAEL BLOOMBERG MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON GUNS? Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the gun control group co-founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, brought their "No More Names" tour back to Washington on Thursday, a week after the group lost a significant fight over gun control at the state level, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. Joined by survivors, victims and family member left behind by gun violence, the rally was a show of strength, powered largely by the emotional appeal of survivors. "I don't want your sympathy, I don't want your condolences, I don't want your hugs and your pats - I want your courage," said Jennifer Longdon, who was paralyzed by a shooting that nearly took her and her husband's lives. "I want action. We're going to come back and come back and come back until we get it." Just last week, pro-gun activists successfully recalled two Colorado state legislators who supported new measures in the state that tightened background checks and limited high-capacity magazines. In the ongoing battle between the National Rifle Association and its affiliated groups vs. Bloomberg's group and its Democratic supporters, the recall may be one scrimmage that gun control advocates lost. But those advocates say that the measures are still on the books, which is a bigger victory. http://abcn.ws/16klzLh
-'FOR YEARS THE NRA HAD THE TERRITORY FOR THEMSELVES': Mayors Against Illegal Guns is marking "progress" in the fact that for the first time in decades, the NRA and their supporters are on the defense. "For years the NRA had the territory for themselves and Democrats and Republicans had both walked away from it," said John Feinblatt, chief adviser to Bloomberg for policy and strategic planning. "There's no doubt they've had the field to themselves and that's changed." Paul Helmke, former president and CEO of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which for decades was the premier lobbying group on gun control, said that Bloomberg's engagement and leadership on guns has been incredibly helpful to the cause - in part by helping level the playing field with the NRA financially. "Anybody's money is important. It doesn't matter if it's Mike Bloomberg's or anybody else's," Helmke said. "The challenge for the gun control movement is that it's always been underfunded, particularly compared to the NRA." http://abcn.ws/16klzLh
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
WHITE HOUSE SUGGESTS OBAMA COULD MEET WITH IRAN'S NEW PRESIDENT. There's nothing on the official schedule, but the White House is sending signals that President Obama is willing to meet with Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani and that the meeting could happen next week when the two leaders will be in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, ABC's DEVIN DWYER and JONATHAN KARL report. No American president has met with an Iranian head of state since Jimmy Carter met with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Tehran on New Year's Eve in 1977. The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 after the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Asked directly if there would be a meeting in New York, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday there was no meeting scheduled, but added, "I would just say that in general, it's possible, but it has always been possible. The extended hand has been there from the moment the president was sworn into office." Later, Secretary of State John Kerry deflected questions about a possible Obama/Rouhani meeting back to the White House. "I think Rouhani's comments have been very positive, but everything needs to be put to the test," Kerry said when asked if there would be a meeting. "We'll see where we go. And at the right moment, I think the White House and the State Department will make clear where we're headed." http://abcn.ws/1gEWZdY
WHAT WE'RE READING
"IN THE NAVY YARD TRAGEDY, DON'T FORGET THE FAMILIES," an ABCNews.com Op-Ed by Republican strategist Joe Brettell. "Monday morning, Sept. 16, became another date notched into our collective memory, not because of another showdown on Capitol Hill or a turn of political fortune. On a Monday morning at the D.C. Navy Yard, 13 families had their lives changed forever - a phone call saying that a loved one wasn't coming home. My family and I have learned what that call is like, and how it changes everything after it. My sister-in-law, Lindsay Ferrill, was my wife's best friend and a frequent presence in our house, even from her home in the suburbs outside Houston. An aspiring professional baker and part-time student, she had taken some hard knocks in the few years since I met and married her sister, but the unexpected arrival of her daughter, Peyton, had changed her course for the better. … It was early afternoon April 25, 2012, and I was headed to Capitol Hill to have lunch with my wife, Erica, who worked in the Senate. Unexpectedly, Erica began calling me over and over again, typically a sign of trouble. I finally answered and heard the worst - Lindsay had texted earlier that morning to say an ex-boyfriend had her and Peyton - and he also had a gun. … Sitting in the Great Hall of Union Station just off the Hill, Erica and I tried to stay upbeat and stared at our phones awaiting news. It was only a few minutes later we learned that while Peyton was safe, two families would never be the same. Lindsay and her ex-boyfriend were both gone.
-'REMEMBER THE VICTIMS AS PEOPLE': "It's a natural part of the human condition to demand answers in the face of tragedy. Monday's events have already restarted a familiar yet passionate debate around the country as we try to make sense of a senseless act. Ironically, however, little of this discussion is likely to center around those most affected. In 13 homes around the country, family and friends will look over old photos and struggle to get their hearts and minds around the fact their loved one is gone in the same way my family did, and still does. To the extent that discussing what caused the tragedy at the Navy Yard can help us avoid other families' losing loved ones, we should have a passionate and thorough debate. But instead of falling into familiar talking points, both sides should promise to remember the victims as people and not a new set of evidence for one side or the other. Perhaps this act, meant for evil, can be used as a catalyst for change in a town badly in need of it." http://abcn.ws/1gHDjpX
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
WHAT'S ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT? INSIDE THE MYSTERIOUS MASS DISAPPEARANCE OF HONEYBEES. Over the past seven years, a stunning one-third of the U.S. honeybee population has disappeared without a trace - a mystery that's baffling beekeepers and scientists, and raising concerns about the impact on the American food supply. U.S. Department of Agriculture bee researcher Jeff Pettis, who is leading the government's search for answers, said there's a lot more at stake in the disappearance of honeybees than just honey. "If you walk into your grocery store, you might see about only one-third of the produce left in the produce aisle," Pettis said, explaining what a world without bees would look like. "Apples and nuts and many of the fruits and vegetables would simply not be available if we didn't have bees or something to pollinate." In an interview with ABC's DEVIN DWYER at the USDA's bee research laboratory outside Washington, D.C., Pettis explained that in colony collapse disorder," the scientific name for the sustained loss of honeybees in recent years, the worker bees leave their hives and never return. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/18frKFb
@EricFehrn: Red Sox are in the playoffs for 1st time in 4 years. This is going to be a good fall.
@jonkarl: 34 years ago, the rise of a new Pope and a new Iranian leader changed the course of history.