By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The government shutdown over Obamacare may have backfired on Congressional Republicans, but a new strategy is emerging that could be far more worrisome for the Obama administration: investigating the troubled implementation of the health care law. The first Congressional hearing begins today in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, setting the stage for several other committees to open their own inquiries. Kathleen Sebelius won't be on the hot seat today - she said she was unavailable - but there will be plenty of questions still lingering next week when she testifies. It's a rare second chance for Congress on Obamacare, but it's an open question whether Republicans will overreach or use their oversight role to do what their political goals could not accomplish.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Germany. France. Mexico. Brazil. You could fill out quite a World Cup pool with the list of countries - American allies, all - with grave concerns about the extent of US snooping inside their borders. The American public may not care that much about NSA spying. But our friends abroad do. (And they can translate verb tenses in carefully worded statements at least as well as the White House press corps.) There's no reason to be shocked - shocked - that even friends do some spying on each other, but the allegations leveled by the German government are on another level. The idea that the personal communications of a friendly head of state would be intercepted by American officials is an easy enough concept to be offended by. Blanket denials wouldn't work, even if they were honest.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Election Day in New Jersey is just around the corner (again), but it would be almost hard to know with how many events Gov. Chris Christie is holding with Democrats. Either the Democrats who have backed him over his Democratic opponent state Sen. Barbara Buono or the ones he has appeared with recently to send the clear message: D.C. dysfunction doesn't happen in the Garden State. Wednesday he appeared with Democratic state Senate President Steve Sweeney where he introduced the governor and said he may "curse at him a lot," but "what we don't disagree on is jobs and making things better for the people of the state," adding "it is a thrill to be here with you." Not something you would usually hear from someone in the opposition party just weeks before Election Day. But, this is no ordinary campaign. After Sweeney's introduction Christie quickly moved to how different New Jersey is from Washington, something we may be hearing a lot now, but just wait until 2016. "He does curse at me and I curse at him, and that's part of the beauty of our relationship because in the end we feel passionately about the things that we believe in, but here's the difference between what happens in Trenton, New Jersey and what happens in Washington, DC," Christie said. "In Trenton, we curse at each other and then we sit down at a table and we get things done. In Washington, they curse at each other and they just keep cursing at each other and they don't get anything done."
MEET OBAMACARE'S MR. FIX IT. When technology - and bureaucracy - go awry in the Obama administration, Jeffrey Zients becomes the president's Mr. Fix It, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP writes. Zients left the Obama administration last April after serving as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget for more than a year, but he was just summoned back (a little ahead of schedule) to undo the glitches in the Affordable Care Act's troubled health insurance marketplace website. A wealthy management consultant who has successfully run - and advised - private companies, Zients was brought in four years ago as the White House's "internal consultant." That meant he revamped federal websites, cut wasteful spending and slashed some of the bureaucratic red tape that made the government such a pain to taxpayers. So what does Zients know about broken websites? Apparently plenty. Zients made an early name for himself inside and outside the administration when he fixed the struggling "Cash for Clunkers" program, one of the Obama administration's first public embarrassments. As with the Obamacare website, the Clunkers computer system couldn't handle the demand. Zients stepped in to ease the logjam. Zients was originally part of a three-person dream team charged with "modernizing" the federal government. Zients, the chief performance officer, Aneesh Chopra, the chief technology officer and Vivek Kundra, the chief information officer were dubbed the "McKinsey guys" by former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. http://abcn.ws/1cYDHka
CALLS TO DELAY OBAMACARE MANDATE DIVIDE DEMOCRATS. Plenty of Republicans have piled on disapproval about the problems with the health insurance exchange website, but now many of President Obama's own allies are joining the chorus of criticism with some Democrats even calling on the president to delay the law, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and ARLETTE SAENZ notes. In a speech on the House floor Wednesday, Rep. John Barrow, a Blue Dog Democrat from Georgia, called on the president to delay implementation of the law's individual mandate, which is set to be enforced Jan. 1. "This isn't about pointing fingers. This is about providing some relief to the folks we represent who are facing serious uncertainty because they're being forced to buy something that's not ready," Barrow said. "I urge my colleagues and the administration to delay the individual mandate. It's not only the right thing to do, it's the only practical thing to do." Some Democratic lawmakers are still praising the president's signature healthcare plan, but they've turned their frustration toward the botched rollout and are venting about how it could hurt their constituents' ability to access healthcare. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., asked President Obama to extend the open enrollment period beyond the current date of March 31, 2014, until the website glitches are fixed, arguing that the problems have dampened people's ability to sign up for the exchanges. http://abcn.ws/1eJUS9K
NOTED: House Republicans are still on a crusade against Obamacare, citing the widespread issues with the rollout of the health care law's website to reiterate that it is not ready for prime time, notes ABC's BETSY KLEIN. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., yesterday called President Obama's signature healthcare bill "nothing short of a debacle" and vowed to delay the individual mandate tax. "In a couple of months, the Obamacare mandate tax is going to kick in, and many Americans are going to have to pay as much as one percent of their income to the federal income if they don't sign up on Obamacare. So how is that fair?" Cantor said. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, blamed September's "disappointing" jobs report on the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act. "We've got the whole threat of Obamacare continuing to hang over our economy like a wet blanket," Boehner said, citing problems that he believes extend beyond the website. http://abcn.ws/Hj5GiZ
OBAMA ASSURES CHANCELLOR MERKEL US 'NOT MONITORING' HER COMMUNICATIONS. President Obama yesterday assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the United States "is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE. Carney, however, said nothing in the past tense, leaving open the possibility that the U.S. could have monitored her communications in the past. In follow-ups, the White House would not specifically deny that the chancellor's communications may have been monitored at some point. "The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges. As the president has said, the U.S. is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share," Carney said at the White House briefing. Obama and Merkel spoke over the phone after the chancellor reportedly received information that U.S. intelligence may have been monitoring her cellphone. Merkel's spokesman said the chancellor made clear in the call that she views such practices, if confirmed, as "completely unacceptable," according to the Associated Press. http://abcn.ws/1bXggX8
TEA PARTY GROUP TURNS HEALTH CARE GLITCHES INTO ANTI-DEM ADS. The Affordable Care Act's websites glitches have given Republicans a fresh anti-Obamacare message for the 2014 campaign, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. The tea party-backed group Americans for Prosperity yesterday announced a slew of new television, radio and web ads criticizing two Democrats, Rep. Scott Peters of California and Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona, for their support of the 3-year-old law. Both Peters and Barber are top targets for Republicans in 2014. Specifically, these ads highlight the glitches that have plagued the site and the two Democratic lawmakers' support for the law. "What if later bigger glitches prevent my family's access to care," the narrator asks. "Or I can't get the surgery my doctor thinks I need because of some policy in Washington." Americans for Prosperity has also taken out ads and launched a ground game to support two Republicans, Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida and Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, who oppose the health care law. In total, it's a $2 million commitment, according to Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips, which includes "grassroots" canvassing and phone banking in the four districts. That's on top of the $5 million it spent during the August recess on the issue of the health care law. The group is funded and founded by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch.
IOWA REPUBLICAN WHO COULD SHAKE UP U.S. SENATE RACE INCHES CLOSER TO A RUN. A handful of Republicans vying to be the next U.S. senator from the state of Iowa gathered last night for their first official debate of the campaign. But one potential GOP hopeful who could change the dynamic of the race if he decides to run was missing, ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE notes. Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats, who is actively exploring a bid, has been sending more signals recently that he is getting serious. Vander Plaats, who heads the Iowa-based group, the Family Leader, traveled to Washington, DC earlier this month during the three-day Values Voter Summit, an annual Christian conservative event, and took part in extensive meetings with national political operatives about his potential Senate bid. Those meetings included discussions with media consultants, pollsters and fundraisers, according to a source familiar with Vander Plaats' deliberations. Topics of discussion included a potential budget for a campaign, an analysis of the Iowa media landscape and specifics about his path to winning the GOP nomination. Five Republicans are already vying for the chance to take on Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who is hoping to keep the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin in Democratic hands. http://abcn.ws/1eK4mSp
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
CONGRESSMAN GETS CATTY OVER OBAMACARE GLITCHES. This is how one congressman gets cat-ty over a cat-astrophe. Hardly any House Republican has missed a chance to criticize the well-publicized glitches plaguing the Obama administration's new health care website - at news conferences, in statements and on Twitter. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., decided to express his concerns yesterday in a different way, ABC's ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES notes. With cats. The congressman posted "8 Cats Who Called 1-800-ObamaCare but Still Couldn't Get Healthcare" to his official website. The post says it is meant to illustrate that "you're used to seeing this when trying to sign up for insurance at Healthcare.gov." The Buzzfeed-style listicle features a number of sad kittens, clutching flip phones, passed out on the keyboard, and giving the kind of sad eyes that says "Can't you just once give me Fancy Feast instead of Meow Mix?" http://abcn.ws/HhVGql
@JenniferJJacobs: Senate candidates attack Obamacare in debate. @Clovis2014 @JoniErnst, @Scottschaben, @MattWhitaker46 @YoungforIowa, http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131024/NEWS09/310240055 …
@bethreinhard: The empire strikes back: from Alabama to Alaska, GOP establishment prepares to beat back tea party http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/inside-the-messy-but-moneyed-republican-plan-to-neutralize-the-tea-party-20131024 …