By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JONATHAN KARL: Beware of irrational exuberance. Last night's meeting was clearly a breakthrough, but both sides are cautioning this morning that progress is fragile. One player on the Republican side said he is "mildly optimistic" while a player on the Democratic side said there is "cause for optimism, but we're not a whole lot closer to resolution." Here's what's happening: In addition to the short-term debt ceiling extension, the talks are focusing getting agreement on a short-term resolution to end the government shutdown and set up a framework for broader budget talks. Republicans made it clear last night they need something in exchange for agreeing to end the shutdown. President Obama told them that he could, in principle, offer only something that he would normally offer through the course regular budget negotiations - in other words, nothing on Obamacare, no major spending concessions. Republicans are now working up their proposal. It is entirely unclear if they will be able to come up with something the White House finds acceptable. The bottom line: Republicans are working out the terms of their surrender and are attempting to get something for a stand-off that has divided the party and cost dearly in the polls. On substance, it is Republicans who are giving in, although the president is now doing something he said he would not do: Negotiating while the government is shutdown and there is a threat of default. He's negotiating, but he's made it clear he is not going to give much. http://abcn.ws/19ETk19
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It was four years ago this week that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." These days, the cooperation he seeks is far more modest - and elusive. The tea leaves from his 90-minute meeting with House Republicans suggest early hints of optimism, but no sure-fire breakthrough in the budget standoff. A short-term solution - six weeks in the House proposal, three months in a Senate plan - seems the most likely way through the impasse. While neither side was bullish on reaching an agreement today, the mere fact that talks are underway is what passes for progress in today's Washington.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's getting hard to be surprised by new superlatives, in this episode defined by new lows for just about everybody involved. (People hate the government more than they did during Watergate? Why shouldn't they?) Even against that backdrop, the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll is striking for how quickly Republican fortunes have soured. Nothing in the past quarter century - not the recession that helped usher George H.W. Bush out of office, not the wars and economic collapse that marked the late stages of George W. Bush's presidency - has pushed the GOP to such dismal approval levels. The Republican pollster who helped conduct the poll calls it an "ideological boomerang" - cutting against the GOP. Even Republicans think Republicans are taking this fight in the wrong direction; nearly 40 percent of them say Republicans in Congress are putting the party agenda above the greater national good. The only exception? Those who identify with the tea party are happier with the Republican Party than they were at the beginning of this fight.
AFTER 'PRODUCTIVE' MEETING, NO WH DECISION ON GOP DEBT LIMIT PLAN. President Obama and House Republican leaders both called meetings at the White House productive last night and pledged to continue talking today, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. It is a positive development in negotiations between the two parties over how to end the government shutdown, which has so far lasted 11 days, and whether to raise the country's debt limit before the Oct. 17 deadline. Republicans presented to Obama and his top advisors a plan that would raise the debt ceiling for six weeks, giving lawmakers more time to hammer out a broader budget deal without the threat of default. But it would not do anything to address the government shutdown. A top GOP aide said that the president neither accepted nor rejected the Republicans' offer. And the White House said that no determination was made about the path forward. The 20 Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, left the White House without speaking to reporters. But upon returning to the Capitol, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the talks were "very useful." In a statement, the White House said that Obama looks forward to "continued progress" with members on both sides of the aisle. http://abcn.ws/16Uf9tD
HAPPENING TODAY: Today it's the Senate Republicans turn to meet with President Obama. They sit down together at the White House at 11:15 a.m, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE. Later, at 2:15 pm, the President meets with small business owners to discuss the impacts of the government shutdown and the consequences of a potential default, closed press. "If Congress fails to act, there will be consequences felt by businesses across the country, and the President will continue to urge leaders in Congress to reach a solution that reopens the government and ensures our nation doesn't default," according to the White House.
DEBT CEILING! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? Congress is once again debating whether to raise the debt ceiling, a legal limitation on how much the government can borrow to pay debts to which it has already committed. But what is the debt ceiling, anyway? And do we really need it? Here are some surprising things you might not know about the debt ceiling, courtesy of ABC's ABBY PHILLIP: http://abcn.ws/15XGfPO
REID ON A TEMPORARY DEBT CEILING EXTENSION: 'NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.' Emerging from a White House meeting with President Obama yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is not willing to negotiate with House Republicans until they agree to pass a clean spending bill to reopen the government, despite their offer to pass a short-term extension of the debt limit, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. "Not going to happen," Reid told reporters, when asked if he would engage in negotiations while the government remains shut down. "The government should be open now. We should be able to pay our debt, and as we've said and we'll continue to say… if that happens, we'll negotiate on anything - anything - and the president confirmed that today," he said. Reid said the Senate would look "clearly" and "closely" at the House proposal to extend the debt ceiling for six weeks when they receive it. http://abcn.ws/1c852jx
COLORADO GOV.: SHUTDOWN MEANS 'SICK KIDS,' NO SHELTER FOR FLOOD VICTIMS. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state is still cleaning up from last month's epic flooding, provided a glimpse of what the shutdown means to victims of a natural disaster while in Washington yesterday, ABC's RICK KLEIN writes. Children in his home state are at risk for E. coli and other diseases, because federal officials can't test previously flooded areas where they are playing, Hickenlooper told me and Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News. He also said flood victims are being left without shelter because federal aid through the Department of Housing and Urban Development is being blocked. "We just had the worst floods we've had in the history of the state, so we've had issues like 20 million gallons of raw sewage got dumped into our river systems. And so we've had flood water - we have E. coli at high, dangerously high levels in many, many places," said Hickenlooper. "In many ways you couldn't have a worse time to have a shutdown. I mean it really is a tragic failing on many, many levels." While workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency remain on the job helping victims in Colorado, the flooding has demonstrated the vast range of federal services that ordinary Americans rely on when tragedy strikes, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said. http://abcn.ws/1c5JaVS
GOP GRILLS PENTAGON OFFICIALS ON DEATH GRATUITY, UNPAID FURLOUGHS. Republican members of Congress took Pentagon officials to task yesterday, demanding to know why the Pentagon decided to cut off the death gratuity to the surviving families of service members during the government shutdown, ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ notes. The Republican members of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness also argued that the Pay Our Military Act enacted the day before the shutdown should have prevented the eventual furlough of 400,000 Defense Department civilians. Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the subcommittee, expressed frustration with the Pentagon's conclusion that it did not have the authority to continue providing $100,000 in death gratuity payments during the shutdown. "I was shocked and angered when I learned that five of our nation's heroes died in Afghanistan over the weekend and their families informed that benefits couldn't be paid," Wittman said. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told the subcommittee that attorneys from the Justice Department, the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon's General Counsel had concluded that the payouts were not possible during the shutdown. "We just don't have the legal authority," Hale said. "And I don't think you want us to start going around the law." The Pentagon announced Wednesday a partnership with the Fisher House Foundation in which that organization would pay the amount of the death gratuity, as well as other costs associated with the death of active-duty military personnel. After the shutdown ends, Hale said, the Defense Department will reimburse the costs to the charity. http://abcn.ws/1adj0Nw
DURING SHUTDOWN, EVEN TIME STOPS ON CAPITOL HILL. Even a stopped Congress is right twice a day. With staff furloughed, some congressional cafeterias closed, and lawmakers no step closer to ending the government shutdown, time stopped in the U.S. Capitol this week, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. An iconic symbol of the Senate - the Ohio Clock - ticks no more as staff responsible for maintaining the nearly 200-year-old clock have been furloughed. The clock is now permanently frozen just shy of 12:15. The Senate curator's office is responsible for winding the antique clock, but staffers in that office have been furloughed, the secretary of the Senate's office confirmed Thursday. The Senate purchased the clock in 1815, and it has stood in or near the Senate chamber ever since. It currently resides in what is called the Ohio Clock Corridor, the site of many Capitol Hill news conferences. It's unclear what day the clock stopped ticking, but for now time stands still in the Capitol. http://abcn.ws/1cAKoey
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
CONGRESS GOT YOU DOWN? NEW SITE LETS YOU DRUNK DIAL THEM. As Week 2 of the government shutdown continues, new websites have begun popping up to give furloughed workers and frustrated Americans alike an outlet to express their anger, ABC's ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES writes. Especially after they've knocked back a couple. Drunkdialcongress.org connects the disgruntled to the House of Representatives. You can enter your phone number into the website and an inebriated voice from a 1-800 number will call you back and ask, "Is this government shutdown making you want to drink?" before transferring to Capitol Hill so that you can "tell them what's on your mind and tell them to get back to work." The site, created by the liberal mobile ad firm, Revolution Messaging, offers talking points like "I can't watch the panda!" or "Why don't you make yourself useful and at least mow the lawn?" For those who need help selecting their form of liquid courage, there are also recipes for drinks like "the bad representative" (three parts liquor, one part lemon juice). Need something stronger? There's "the sleepy senator" for those with absinthe lying around. http://abcn.ws/15XnSu9
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
SAVING CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: MEET ONE OF THE REAL-LIFE HEROES BEHIND THE NEW MOVIE. Vice Admiral Michelle Howard has never been one to back down from a challenge. As the first African-American woman to rise to the three star rank in the U.S. armed forces, she's faced her fair share. One of the biggest challenges of her career came in 2009, when Howard was just three days into a new job as head of a U.S. Navy strike force charged with combating pirates in the Arabian Sea. While aboard the U.S.S. Boxer, the amphibious assault ship that served as her command ship, a call came that a U.S.-flagged cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, had been hijacked by Somali pirates. Howard soon learned that the ship's captain had been taken hostage aboard a lifeboat. The captain was Richard Phillips, about whom the new movie "Captain Phillips" is based. And it was Howard's job to get him back. The destroyer U.S.S. Bainbridge, 300 miles away at the time of hijacking, was dispatched to get as close as possible to the lifeboat. "We found out that the life raft was heading to the Somali coast, so very quickly the focus of the mission became don't let the life raft touch land," Howard told "Power Players." http://yhoo.it/GRsVS0
@brianjameswalsh: Conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board says the "Cruz faction" has "deceived voters." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303382004579127442585500968.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_AboveLEFTTop …
@TonyFratto: For 4 years the White House tried to make Obamacare popular. Ted Cruz did it in 4 weeks.
@dcbigjohn: Sources: Cash-Strapped FreedomWorks In State Of Financial Disarray http://www.buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/sources-cash-strapped-freedomworks-in-state-of-financial-dis … via @rosiegray