By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Once the Obama White House decided it was time to acknowledge that HealthCare.gov wasn't running like it was supposed to, another decision was made: not to talk details about what went wrong or how it's being fixed. What exactly is the problem? Who specifically is fixing it? How much are those fixes costing? When will it be fixed? How many people have even managed to enroll? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney's stock refrain - "I would refer you to HHS" - would be sufficient, if HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was willing or able to answer any of those questions. (Last night's CNN interview was better than the Jon Stewart one, but not by much.) The administration has chosen to try to sell Obamacare while defending an indefensible marketplace launch. The result is little credibility on either. Take it from Ezekiel Emanuel, the former White House health care adviser: "Transparency is the only way to convince the American people that the situation is under control," he writes in The New York Times. The president told supporters in a video message yesterday that "many" people have managed to enroll; some real numbers might be nice. http://nyti.ms/1894t48
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: A handful of Republicans vying to be the next U.S. senator from the state of Iowa will gather tonight for their first official debate. But another potential GOP hopeful, whose entrance could change the dynamic of the race, will be missing from the gathering. Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats has been actively exploring a run and 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 and held extensive meetings with national political operatives about a potential Senate run. Those meetings included discussions with media consultants, pollsters and fundraisers. 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. But as one Republican operative familiar with Iowa's political terrain told ABC News, should Vander Plaats decide to jump in on the Republican side, he could be a game changer. "He would absolutely turn the whole race upside down and automatically be thought of as a top-tier candidate, if not the front-runner," the operative said. "His ability to mobilize an already active base would be vital - not just for the primary itself - but should the primary go to a convention. He would already have a massive statewide network."
GOP AIMS NEW LEGISLATION SQUARELY AT HEALTH CARE WEBSITE SNAFUS. Amid Obama administration efforts to fix what ails the online marketplace central to the president's health care law, several Republican lawmakers are trying to turn the snafus against the administration with new legislation targeting the law, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., will introduce legislation next week to delay the so-called individual mandate until six months after the Government Accountability Office says the sites are fully functional. The individual mandate, beginning in 2014, will require many people to be insured or pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. "It is not fair that next year Americans will be punished for not buying ObamaCare when the website they are supposed to buy it on doesn't work," Rubio said in a statement Monday. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced his intention to introduce legislation that would require the administration to produce weekly reports about the health care exchanges. The reports would detail everything from the number of enrollees in the exchanges to how the administration is fixing the website's problems. "This bill will require the administration to be honest and transparent with the public, governors overseeing state exchanges, state consumer protection regulators, and decision makers in Congress," Alexander said in a statement Tuesday. "No more hiding the damage of the train wreck. Americans are on this train." http://abcn.ws/1bTS4Fc
OBAMACARE: TRUTH AND MYTHS. These days, it can be hard to separate truth from myth when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. Opponents of the law have sought to discredit it by repeating statements that aren't backed by facts, while its proponents do their own stretching of the truth. ABC's ABBY PHILLIP demystifies some of the most vexing questions surrounding the new health care law: http://abcn.ws/1a6Nkyq Here's one example:
MYTH: People are having difficulty signing up for health care everywhere.
TRUTH: It's been all over the news since the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces opened for business on Oct 1: delays, broken web pages and glitches galore. While there have been enormous difficulties for the ACA's health insurance exchanges, the problems have been largely confined to the 34 state marketplaces that the federal government runs. In 16 other states and the District of Columbia, the state-run exchanges seem to be working fine. Some of them are actually doing pretty well - at least when compared with the others.Kentucky has already enrolled 15,000 people in health insurance plans with few problems. And within two weeks, California said that 95,000 people had started applications for insurance.
TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: This afternoon President Obama sits down with Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif at the White House, amid fresh concerns about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. The meeting comes one day after Amnesty International released a new report claiming that the number of civilian casualties in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan is greater than has been acknowledged by the United States. "The meeting will highlight the importance and resilience of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and provide an opportunity for us to strengthen cooperation on issues of mutual concern, such as energy, trade and economic development, regional stability, and countering violent extremism," according to the White House.
ANALYSIS: WHY CHRIS CHRISTIE REFUSES TO CAMPAIGN FOR NEW YORK'S GOP MAYORAL HOPEFUL. With Republican Joe Lhota getting pummeled in the race for New York City mayor, some insiders have suggested his campaign could get a much-needed boost from an endorsement - and maybe an appearance or two - by popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ABC's JOSH MARGOLIN writes. Lhota's neighbor across the Hudson River has a number of key friends in common with Christie, not the least of whom is Lhota's former boss, Rudy Giuliani. Because of the close connections and shared financial backers between the two, a Christie-Lhota alliance seemed like a no-brainer. And yet it hasn't happened. Christie has done everything he could to keep his steamroller campaign for re-election far away from Lhota's bid for City Hall. ABC News has learned that - like everything else about Christie's politics - the snubbing of Lhota is intentional. Sources said there's no chance Christie would get involved in Lhota's campaign, despite the governor's penchant for involving himself in New York City political issues. "He just can't do it," one person said of Christie casting in with Lhota.
BACKSTORY: MARGOLIN notes that early in his run for the GOP nomination, Lhota was asked about airport security. In response, he flippantly criticized the police at the Port Authority, which operates the World Trade Center and Big Apple airports. "Quite honestly, and I know I will get in trouble for saying this, they are nothing more than mall cops," Lhota said during a forum. The dig was a homerun in trying to attract the support of members of New York Police Department, who have long-feuded with the smaller PAPD. But to the PA police, the killer comment made Lhota persona non grata. They went after Lhota right afterward and have since campaigned against him. The comment meant Christie could never do anything for Lhota. The PA has a police union that looms large in New Jersey politics, and that organization was the first public-sector union to publicly endorse Christie this year. Christie worked hard to secure the nod and he wasn't going to do anything to cause a rift with the PA cops. Beyond that, Christie simply views Lhota's campaign as a sure loser, according to insiders, and Christie doesn't bet on losers. Christie expects - like all observers - that New York Democrat Bill de Blasio will win the mayor's race, and, if he does, Christie will have quite a bit of business to transact with the new Big Apple boss because of the considerable role the New Jersey governors plays through the Port Authority.Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts declined to comment.
TAX FILING SEASON DELAYED UP TO TWO WEEKS DUE TO SHUTDOWN. The 2014 tax filing season will be delayed up to two weeks due to the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday, according to ABC's ABBY PHILIP. The delay for when the government will start accepting tax filing does not delay the final deadline for filing taxes. The April 15 tax deadline will remain in place. The Jan. 21 start date for accepting tax returns in 2014 will be pushed back at least until Jan. 28- and it could be pushed back as far as Feb. 4. According to the IRS, the government shutdown forced the IRS to close 90 percent of its operation for 16 says, and that delay set back work on preparing for the new tax season by nearly three weeks. "Readying our systems to handle the tax season is an intricate, detailed process, and we must take the time to get it right," said Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel in a statement. "The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation's taxpayers." http://abcn.ws/18HXbZi
IS 'THE FIFTH ESTATE'S' BOX OFFICE BOMB A VICTORY FOR JULIAN ASSANGE? Just a week before the wide release of "The Fifth Estate," the DreamWorks-produced WikiLeaks picture, Julian Assange accurately predicted how the movie would perform, ABC's ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES notes. "'The Fifth Estate' is going to fail," he told the Hollywood Foreign Press Association via Skype from the Ecuador Embassy in London, where he has been residing in diplomatic asylum for more than a year. And Assange appears to be right. The movie, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Assange, grossed just $1.7 million in 1,769 locations - the worst opening weekend for a wide-release film this year. The movie details the ascent of the secret document leaking website, and the life of Assange, the man behind it. Some have called the film's dismal numbers a victory for Assange. The WikiLeaks founder has spent the past year speaking out against "The Fifth Estate," telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview via Skype on "This Week" that "there was no approach … by Dreamworks, in any formal capacity whatsoever." He added, "This is a film that is based upon my life's work, the work of my organization; we have people in extremely serious situations." http://abcn.ws/1cWsH6J
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
U.S. CAPITOL TO GET TWO-YEAR, $60 MILLION MAKEOVER. The U.S. Capitol dome is about to undergo a massive restoration project to repair more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies in the iron structure, transforming the iconic building's appearance over the next two years, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. According to the Architect of the Capitol, $59.55 million has been budgeted to repair the dome. That's a cost of almost $82,000 per day if the project is completed in the estimated two years planners believe will be required to finish the work. The cast iron dome exterior, which was completed more than 150 years ago after the Civil War, has not been fully restored since a project in 1959-1960. Last year, scaffolding was built around the Statue of Freedom perched atop the dome to enable workers to clean and restore the statue. http://abcn.ws/18HW5Np
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
MOM ON A MISSION: DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ SAYS WOMEN ARE CHANGING WASHINGTON. When it comes to breaking through political stalemates on Capitol Hill, Debbie Wasserman Schultz says that women are making the difference. "Women are so often consensus builders," Wasserman Schultz told "Top Line." "We're much more focused on getting to yes, rather than obliterating our opponents on the other side." In the aftermath of the 16 day government shutdown, the Florida congresswoman and chair of the Democratic National Committee warned that more political crises are unavoidable unless elected officials take "personal responsibility" in building trust across the partisan divide. "If members don't personally make that effort at reaching across the aisle, then I think it's almost unavoidable," she said. "I don't think the intensity of the Tea Party has lessened any from this experience." http://yhoo.it/18aXaZA
@PhilipRucker: Lee says in WaPo interview, "This fight was worth fighting" & dismisses his declining approval amid shutdown. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-utah-tea-party-favorite-sen-lee-faces-gop-backlash-over-government-shutdown/2013/10/22/9754e782-3b25-11e3-a94f-b58017bfee6c_story.html …
@ruthreichl: Cool. Cloudy. Amber and rust: true fall. Wild turkeys stalk the lawn. Fresh ginger tea. Warm applesauce. Spicy sausage. Peppers. Onions.