By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The Washington impasse boils down to these questions: How long - and how much - to fund the government? How long - and how much - to raise the nation's borrowing power? They are basic, but the answers remain elusive as the government shutdown enters its third week and the threat of default looms. The fight is largely in the hands of the top two Senate leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. But it's also complicated by one very important step: Even after resolving the specific budget number (they're about $90 billion apart and it's hard to imagine Republicans going back to pre-sequester funding levels), it's not over yet. Any agreement still faces approval in the House, where the gridlock first began. By that point, the clock will be ticking very loudly.
ABC's TOM SHINE: Just three days before default, the U.S. Senate isn't in until 2 p.m., the house has no votes before 6:30 p.m. Judging by the House and Senate schedules you would never know the country is on the brink of disaster. Both are going through their normal Monday routines - in late with votes much later and no votes on the issues that count. The most exciting moment of the day may be the Senate Chaplain's prayer. What will he say? But more importantly will anyone listen?
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The Republican National Committee is launching robocalls against key Democrats today - DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Senators Mark Begich, D-AK, Mary Landrieu, D-LA, and Kay Hagan, D-NC. The calls urge those listening to demand their lawmaker to vote for the House's legislation last week to make sure veterans receive their benefits. Although it did pass with bipartisan support the bill would not reopen the government. The calls to the four senators accuses them "and Senate Democrats" of thinking "this shutdown is a game." "They are playing politics by cutting off our veterans and their benefits. In a bi-partisan vote the House of Representatives wanted to make sure our veterans got the benefits they earned for fighting for our freedoms." Adding the senator "won't negotiate" and "would rather put partisan politics ahead of honoring our commitment to the people who defended this country." If the polling continues to show the blame solidly in the Republicans' corner, as it does now, we may see more of this with the GOP trying to shift the blame for the shutdown.
ABOUT THIS WEEKEND: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he was "optimistic" about the prospects of the Senate striking a deal to end the government shutdown and avert a default, but at least two major sticking points remain and it is still not clear whether any Senate deal would win approval in the House, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY report. "I'm optimistic about the prospects for a positive conclusion to the issues before this country today," Reid said on the Senate floor yesterday. McConnell released a statement implicitly supporting a plan crafted by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that Democrats shot down Saturday. "There is a bipartisan plan in place that has the support of Democrat and Republican Senators. It would reopen the government, prevent a default, provide the opportunity for additional budget negotiations around Washington's long-term debt, and maintain the commitment that Congress made to reduce Washington spending through the Budget Control Act - the law of the land," McConnell said. But the six Democratic senators who worked with Collins on her proposal said they do not support the plan as it stands. http://abcn.ws/18c72qe
LINDSEY GRAHAM ON OBAMACARE: THE FIGHT IS 'FAR FROM OVER.' During his appearance on 'This Week," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it was "unrealistic to expect us to be able to defund or delay Obamacare by shutting the government down," but that the fight over the president's signature healthcare law has not ended, ABC's BEN BELL notes. "The fight on Obamacare is far from over. After this mess is behind us Obamacare will be a liability for Democrats and the government shutdown we can survive if we're smart," Graham said. http://abcn.ws/19x2mtp
SARAH PALIN, SENATORS 'CLEAN UP' NATIONAL MALL. As Congress remained at an impasse over the fiscal crisis, anger boiled over as hundreds of veterans and protesters descended upon the National Mall yesterday to demand that the national war memorials be fully reopened, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. The veterans, part of the Million Vets March, linked up with former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, at the World War II Memorial. "Let me ask a simple question, why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?" Cruz said. "Our veterans should be above all this." Protesters removed barriers at the World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial and stacked them up outside the White House gates. "You work for us! You work for us!" the veterans chanted. http://abcn.ws/18c72qe
NOTED: DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE COLLINS' PLAN? The initial framework of a plan crafted by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, lifts the debt limit until Jan. 31, 2014 and reopens the government for six months while also delaying the medical device tax for two years and requiring income verification for insurance exchanges. However, Democrats want both the continuing resolution and debt ceiling extended for longer periods of time. "We have been involved in productive, bipartisan discussions with Senator Collins and other Republican senators, but we do not support the proposal in its current form. There are negotiations, but there is no agreement," Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Angus King, I-Maine; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; and Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; said in a statement.
"THIS WEEK" PREDICTIONS ON DEBT CEILING DRAMA. Sunday on ABC's "This Week," GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS asked the roundtable if they thought Congress would strike a deal on the debt ceiling before Thursday's deadline. Former top Obama adviser, DAVID PLOUFFE: "I think it's no better than 50/50. And so I think the country needs to prepare that this could go on for a while." Wall Street Journal columnist PEGGY NOONAN: "I think the House is nervous, the Senate is nervous, and the White House is nervous, nobody knows how this ends or exactly when, but there will be great pressure to clean this up, especially if damning polls continue to come out." New York Times columnist and economist PAUL KRUGMAN: "I think it's no better than 50/50. And the positive 50 comes entirely from the likelihood that the markets are going to say something really very loud when they open tomorrow." Former Bush administration official DAN SENOR: "I think that they will get through it. Republicans should get through this and move as quickly as possible to a debate on Obamacare to prove that Paul's prediction is actually not correct." http://abcn.ws/1gC7XUp
PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE: SENATE CHAPLAIN BARRY BLACK SAYS 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH'. It's not a position that's often in the spotlight - but with the government shutdown still ongoing, the Senate chaplain captured the nation's attention last week with a surprising scolding for the legislators he pastors, reports ABC's ISOBEL MARKHAM. "Remove from them that stubborn pride," Chaplain Barry Black entreated in his opening prayer in the Senate chamber as the shutdown stretched into its fourth day. "Forgive them for the blunders they have committed." Black's heartfelt, yet strictly non-partisan prayers, have subtly evolved over the past two weeks, adjusting to the most pressing issues facing senators each day. Every day of the government shutdown, Black has continued to open the senate chamber with a prayer for Congress to find a solution - even though he himself isn't being paid for his efforts. "I'm being remunerated from above," Black told ABC's John Donvan on "This Week." "And that's pretty special." Black, a former Navy Rear Admiral with a doctorate in psychology, has the respect and affections of senators on both sides of the aisle. Several dozen join him weekly for prayer breakfasts and bible study. "One senator came to me and said, 'Chaplain, I hope our lawmakers are listening, because I've been following your prayers very closely for the last four to five days. And they are really making a difference in my reflections,'" Black said. http://abcn.ws/GMzFQq
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
COLORADO GOV. ON 2016: DC DYSFUNCTION 'DISCOURAGING' HIM FROM PRESIDENTIAL RUN. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state is struggling to recover from last month's historic flooding in the midst of the government shutdown, says watching the Washington discord from afar has only served to discourage him from considering a 2016 presidential run. "It's … daunting to look at how divisive the relationships are in Washington right now," Hickenlooper said. "It's hard to imagine anyone would could go in there and make a difference, and it's very discouraging." Hickenlooper sat down with "Top Line" behind the scenes of The Daily Beast's "Hero Summit" in Washington and described the government shutdown as a "tragic failing" that is choking off services that are essential to the health and safety of people in Colorado. "It's amazing," Hickenlooper said. "[If] you want to start appreciating all the things that the federal government does for those people who are most at risk, have a major disaster and then take away all those services." http://yhoo.it/18duT8P
@DavidMDrucker: . @ByronYork offers alternate history (of success) if Republicans hadn't gone sledding down the #defunding rat hole: http://washingtonexaminer.com/gop-seizes-advantage-on-obamacare-white-house-struggles-to-defend-an-alternative-history-of-the-past-two-months/article/2537193 …
@politicalwire: Booker's Lead Down to 10 Points http://politicalwire.com/archives/2013/10/14/bookers_lead_down_to_10_points.html#.UlviquhYHVo.twitter …
@hilaryr: Did @SarahPalinUSA really say the media is getting all "Whee Wheed up"? LOL, what does that even mean??? @NewDay http://cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2013/10/14/n-j-senate-race-berman-newday.cnn-ap.html … #cnn