The Beginning Of The End

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • WILL THEY ALL JUST GET ALONG?: A tentative breakthrough in negotiations among congressional leaders to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling faces a major test: the judgment of Republican lawmakers in the Senate today, and eventually, in the House of Representatives where things could get dicey, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. The broad contours of the agreement, which trickled out yesterday, include funding the government until Jan. 15 and raising the debt limit through mid-February. Though those terms would take these debates largely off the table though the holiday season, it would only kick the can down the road. Eventually, lawmakers will face a similar need to both extend funding for the government and raise the debt ceiling in 2014. The deal could also include some provisions that address the president's health care law, but the negotiations notably exclude any of the demands Republicans initially made to either defund or delay the law's central provisions. And it is unlikely to please Tea Party conservatives who still insist that significant alterations to Obamacare must be part of any budget deal.
  • STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH CRUZ: The signs of optimism about a Senate budget deal are tempered with a fair dose of skepticism from some rank-and-file Republicans, ABC's JEFF ZELENY notes. There is deep concern over spending and what level to fund the government. "I don't think we're any closer to a deal," Sen. Orrin Hatch told ABC News Monday evening. "I don't know how anyone can say we are." Part of the skepticism is rooted in the fact that Senate leaders are hashing this out without most rank-and-file members. Today's 11 a.m. meeting of all GOP senators will be the first time they can get all the information for themselves. One GOP senator who was uncharacteristically quiet yesterday: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who did not say he would - or wouldn't - try to hold things up in the Senate. He told reporters the exact same thing nine times: "I want to wait to see what the details are."
  • THE BLAME GAME: A new high of 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling Washington's budget crisis, up significantly in the past two weeks and far exceeding disapproval of both President Obama and congressional Democrats on the issue, according to ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that criticism of the GOP's handling of the budget dispute has grown by 11 percentage points since just before the partial government shutdown began, from 63 to 70 and now 74 percent - clearly leaving the party with the lion's share of blame. Indeed 54 percent now "strongly" disapprove. By contrast, 53 percent disapprove of Obama's work on the issue, essentially flat since the crisis came to a head and a broad 21 points lower than disapproval of the Republicans. Fewer, as well, strongly disapprove of Obama's performance, 39 percent.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: There's no question that Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and a bipartisan coalition of senators have made significant strides on the double-barreled fiscal impasse. The end is in sight - at least in the Senate. But this emerging deal should still be stamped 'TENTATIVE.' Yes, it's almost certain to pass the Senate, but a group of Republicans will still likely be against it. The size and strength of that group will be an early indication of opposition in the House, which also still has an equal say in this deal. Don't expect all House Republicans to suddenly swallow this Senate bill. They didn't take a stand to suddenly fall into line. It all depends how the deal is cast. Can a victory be declared for holding the line on spending - at least for now? And once again today, Speaker John Boehner has the hardest salesman's job in town.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: It shall end as it began - with Ted Cruz doing the talking, and some directing, too. Assuming the Senate deal holds, there's enough in there for Republicans declare victory on. GOP lawmakers can walk away with the budget talks they've been asking for, and a tweak to the Obama health care law, despite President Obama's insistence that they'd get nothing as a condition of raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government. As for political incentives for Republicans to end this, they continue to grow: The blame directed at the GOP has grown steadily and uncomfortably, with 74 percent now disapproving of the party's handling of the shutdown, in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. All of which makes Cruz relevant again. He and the band of House members he's consulting with can make this go easily and quickly, or make this very difficult for all involved. How they define victory - and whether they're willing or able to accept it - puts them in the center of the action another time. Their sway over House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team is unlikely to be what it was just a few weeks ago. And that will make them important yet again…

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: With the disparate threads of a deal being stitched together by negotiators on Capitol Hill, Washington is already turning its attention to the winners and losers of the two-week government shutdown and the debt limit standoff. But it's clear that for many of the players - whether it's President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner or Sen. Ted Cruz -the line between winning and losing will be blurred. But perhaps the most astute analysis on this question came from Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who recently observed on the Senate floor: "Nobody is winning in this. And I tell my friends, the Democrats, you are not winning. And I tell my friends, the Republicans, we are not winning. The administration is not winning. Everybody is losing in this."

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The Democratic Governors Association is trying to take advantage of those bad poll numbers the Republicans are suffering from since the shutdown showdown began. The DGA is out today with a new video trying to link Republican governors with their less popular congressional colleagues and as well as the Tea Party. "Republican governors are desperately trying to separate themselves from the toxic brand that is today's Republican Party," DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner said in a statement. "But the truth is that they helped elect the Tea Party Republicans in Congress who have shut down the government, share their radical ideology, and are inextricably linked to their attacks on women, gay Americans, immigrants, and middle-class families." Watch: Of course, the Republican Governors Association is out today with their own video in their series that tout GOP governors and also aim to separate them from a disliked congress. Called the American Comeback Project today's video is from Ohio governor John Kasich: "The frustration that I have with the federal government is they put the wind in our face rather than the wind at our back. And what we really need are politicians who really think much less about the next election and much more about the fact that they have a great opportunity to be able to help people, to be able to solve problems in order to grow our economies. Too much politics, too little real public service," Kasich says: Watch:


TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE - OBAMA MAKES HIS CASE: As the Senate closes in on a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt limit, President Obama continues to make the public case for Republicans to end the budget standoff. This morning he sits down for interviews with three local TV stations. In the afternoon, the president awards the Medal of Honor to Capt. William Swenson for his courageous actions during a firefight in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2009. Later, the president and Vice President Joe Biden meet privately with Defense Secretary Hagel at the White House.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS JOE BIDEN? The last time Washington flirted with default, in 2011, Vice President Joe Biden rode to the rescue as the Great Dealmaker with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Dispatched to the Hill, Biden brokered an 11th-hour compromise with Republicans that helped stave off a fiscal calamity. But this go-round, the normally loquacious Biden is notably silent and sidelined, ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. While lawmakers huddled this weekend and President Obama monitored developments from the White House, Biden and his wife were squirreled away at Camp David, where they remained through Monday morning. The VP has not spoken in public since the shutdown began 14 days ago and has completely wiped his schedule of planned appearances, including a trip to New Jersey to campaign for Senate candidate Cory Booker, a fundraiser with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a speech at the Human Rights Campaign annual gala. The last time Biden was heard from was at the J-Street National Conference Sept. 30, hours before the shutdown, when he made no mention of the budget battle. Several Senate Republican aides said the lack of a role for Biden is unsurprising, given the White House's stated refusal to negotiate over a debt limit increase or a government shutdown. Another factor might be disappointment among some congressional Democrats in past deals brokered by Biden, with many wary he might now give too much away.

A GUIDE TO THE POWER PAIRINGS AT CENTER OF SHUTDOWN, DEBT-LIMIT CRISIS. If you think the past three weeks of crisis over the government shutdown and now the looming debt ceiling have seemed like a soap opera, you're not alone. The drama in Washington has, at times, centered on a few key relationships, some of them matches made in political heaven, others marriages of convenience and some simply dysfunctional. Here are the most important power couples in Washington, and how their relationships could make or break compromise in Washington, courtesy of ABC's ABBY PHILLIP:

BOXER SKEWERS BACHMANN FOR BEING 'HAPPY' OVER SHUTDOWN. Each passing day of the government shutdown seems to bring a new feud between Harry Reid or John Boehner and "insert-name-here," according to ABC's ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES. On Monday, however, it was Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who brought the heat against an outspoken Republican congresswoman. Boxer didn't name names, but there was no mistaking her target: Tea Party favorite, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. "One of the Republican House members said, 'I've never seen us so happy'," Boxer said on the Senate floor, paraphrasing Bachmann. "She's happy? She's happy that millions of people don't know where the next check is coming? She's happy that plane crashes can't be investigated? She's happy that superfund sites can't be cleaned up? She's happy that veterans are scared?" Some of Bachmann's recent rosy comments about the shutdown have stood out against the gloom and doom rhetoric of many other Washington lawmakers. "This is about the happiest I've seen members in a long time, because we see we are starting to win this dialogue on a national level," Bachmann said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Oct. 2.

AMERICA GOES ROGUE: 9 WAYS PEOPLE ARE GETTING AROUND THE SHUTDOWN. As America enters week three of the government shutdown of 2013, the country's patience is waning, and, from the Grand Canyon to Washington, D.C., people are embracing their rebellious sides. This week, several national parks and monuments re-opened through state or local funding. And even some of those that didn't have had their barricades pushed aside. Meanwhile, several private charities have stepped in to fill the void left by Congress to keep programs running. Here's a look at how some of the end-runs around the shutdown over the last two weeks, courtesy of ABC's NICKI ROSSOLL, JOAN E. GREVE and ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES:

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BACK AT THE SUPREME COURT, WITH A TWIST. The Supreme Court will take up affirmative action today in a case challenging Michigan's ban on race-conscious admissions policies at public universities, ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE reports. Unlike recent cases in which the high court has examined a particular plan at a public university, however, this case looks at affirmative action from a different perspective: a state's total ban on racial preferences in higher education. "The people of Michigan concluded that not having affirmative action in higher education was the best policy for the state," says state Attorney General Bill Schuette says in defending Proposal 2, the ballot initiative that passed in 2006 with 58 percent of the vote and amended the state Constitution. A collection of individuals and interest groups, including the ACLU and the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, challenged Proposal 2 and won their case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. BACKSTORY:

-NOTE: Only eight Supreme Court justices will hear the affirmative action case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, at today's 1 p.m. oral argument because Justice Elena Kagan has been recused, presumably because she dealt with the case in her previous job as U.S. solicitor general. A 4-4 result would uphold the lower court decision and represent a victory for supporters of affirmative action, but no new precedent would be set.

SURVIVALIST INDUSTRY THRIVING ON DEBT DEFAULT THREAT. One sector of the U.S. economy is thriving on the threat of a debt default apocalypse. Survivalist industries - from tactical training schools to doomsday bunker manufacturers - are reporting an uptick in business over the past few days, as a first-ever U.S. default has inched closer to reality, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports. The trend is seen from Virginia to Florida, California to Indiana. "We're not quite Greece, but there's a realization we're moving slowly toward it," said Robert Allen, owner of Sigma III Survival School in Huntington, Ark. "Economic collapse is the most common cause of people wanting to start preparing." Enrollment at Sigma, where clients learn how to be completely self-reliant, has surged in the past few weeks, Allen told ABC News. His customer base now tops 2,000, with many flying in from out of state. "Ninety percent of my customers are interested in the news and want to prepare their families for the worst," he said. While experts say the odds of a doomsday default are low, and chance of a complete collapse of civilization out of the question, the fears many Americans harbor are very real. And they are perpetuated by a deepening distrust of government, experts say.


@GeraldFSeib: Three Repulbicans who stand to emerge from #shutdown in decent shape: Paul, Christie Ryan. via @WSJ

@JimDeMint: What the Founders Thought about Debt: A good reminder.

@mattcanter: Bruce Braley has raised $3m to date. His six opponents have not raised $1m combined. #iasen

@ByronYork: More Politico: 'Dems won't say too loudly yet, but emerging budget agreement leaves Republicans with remarkably little to show…'

@rollcall: Ted Cruz, House Republicans Meet in Secret at Tortilla Coast via @MEPFuller #alert

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