Posts Tagged Obama

Obama appoints Jeffrey Zients to fix healthcare website | World news |

Obama appoints Jeffrey Zients to fix healthcare website

Officials pledge site will be fixed by late November as Zients says he will provide ‘relentless focus on speed and execution’

Jeffrey Zients

The White House said Zients will assist a team that is said to be working around the clock on the site. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

The troubled website will be fixed by late November, the Obama administration said Friday as the US government appointed a new contractor to head the scheme.

Jeffrey Zients, President Obama’s appointee to fix the problems, promised “relentless focus on speed and execution”, nearly a month into the botched healthcare rollout, which has prevented people from signing up for Obama’s landmark program.

Administration officials announced Friday that one of the website’s subcontractors – QSSI – would now lead the initiative to fix the site. Officials at the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services had previously taken the lead role.

“By the end of November, will work smoothly for the vast majority of users,” Zients said Friday. “The site is fixable. It will take a lot of work, and there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed.”

Zients, who has been the president’s go-to man for problem solving, said the government and private-sector team providing the “tech surge” had finished an assessment of the website’s flaws.

Zients said that the volume of applications on the site had caused initial problems. The site received 14.6m visitors in its first days of activity. But Zients added that problems across the site had exacerbated the situation, leading to frozen pages and error messages.

“These are bugs that prevent the software from performing the way it’s supposed to work,” he said. “There’s a punch list of fixes, and we’re going to punch them out one by one.”

Andrew Slavitt, the executive vice-president at QSSI, told Congress this week that the software was now “keeping pace with demand” and had had “error rates close to zero” since October 8. covers people in the 36 states that declined to run their own health-insurance exchanges. About 700,000 applications have been begun nationwide, and half of them have come in through the website. The White House aims to have 7m uninsured Americans covered by the scheme by the end of March.

Senate Democrats wrote to health secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling for an extension of the healthcare law’s open enrolment period while the site’s issues are fixed.

“Given the existing problems with and other state-run marketplace websites that depend on the federally-administered website, we urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014,” the senators wrote.

“Extending this period will give consumers critical time in which to become familiar with the website and choose a plan that is best for them. Individuals should not be penalised for lack of coverage if they are unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems.”

Zients’ announcement follows an acrimonious hearing Thursday where Republicans charged that the government knew about major glitches in the site before launch and contractors said they had warned the government of issues.

 Obama appoints Jeffrey Zients to fix healthcare website | World news |


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Rand Paul Makes A Fool Of Himself Trying to Blame Obama For the Government Shutdown

Rand Paul Makes A Fool Of Himself Trying to Blame Obama For the Government Shutdown

By: Jason Easley
Sunday, October 13th, 2013


On CNN State of the Union, Sen. Rand Paul made a fool of himself by repeating the same blame Obama for the shutdown talking points that he admitted on video were his strategy for “winning” the shutdown.




Sen. Paul was asked if this was the beginning of the end for the Republican Party. He answered, “I think our demise is a little overstated. I would say that both parties are going to catch a lot of blame on this. This not good for either party…Well, I think both are. Democrats who think this is a parlor game, who think this is fun. Here’s what the Democrats think. They think we’ll send a bunch of government workers out there to close the roadside viewing of Mount Rushmore, cause that’ll be funny. I think it isn’t funny, and I think that Democrats and Republicans are going to catch blame. So I don’t want to be here. I don’t see this as winning or losing. This is a lose/lose situation. We need to open up government, and it does require conversation. But the president is the one saying he won’t negotiate, and now it’s Senate Democrats saying, we used to want a clean CR, but we think you’re squirming, so now we want to raise spending and break the budget caps. So I think we’re seeing that Senate Democrats are getting greedy about this whole thing.”

There is a very simple reason why Republicans have not been successfully able to blame President Obama for the government shutdown. Unlike Rand Paul and his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate, President Obama never had a vote on whether or not the government stayed open. In contrast, Rand Paul has voted against a clean CR everytime that it has come to the floor.

The polls show that the American people aren’t stupid. They know who is keeping the government closed. Rand Paul thinks we’re all dumb. Sen. Paul is still trying to undo the damage he caused by being recorded discussing with Mitch McConnell how Republicans were going to “win” the government shutdown. That video is the reason why Paul keeps pushing the lies that Democrats are playing games and having fun with the government shutdown. By refusing to change his talking points, even after being caught on tape, Sen. Paul is embarrassing himself everytime he speaks.

Paul’s complaint that Democrats are getting greedy was an admission of defeat. The Republicans are angry because they think Democrats are “running up the score” by asking for things like an end to sequester funding.

The American people are never going to blame the president to the same degree that they blame Congress for this dual act of economic sabotage. Rand Paul and the Senate Republicans could have sent a unified message that they wouldn’t tolerate a government shutdown by voting with Democrats on a clean CR. Instead, Paul and others chose to follow the lead of Ted Cruz by playing games with the CR. Now, they are paying the price for their miscalculation.

Rand Paul blew it, and now he is trying to blame President Obama for the mess that he helped make. President Obama wasn’t the person caught on tape discussing how Republicans were going to win this game. Paul has never apologized for treating the economic livelihood of millions of Americas like a game. He just keeps going in front of the cameras and making the same statements that he admitted were talking points in the video with McConnell.

Sen. Paul continues to make a fool out of himself by repeating his talking points, and pretending that no one has seen the video.

Rand, we know you’re lying, because you told us on tape that sounding reasonable and blaming Obama was your strategy for winning.

 Rand Paul Makes A Fool Of Himself Trying to Blame Obama For the Government Shutdown.


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John Boehner’s New Plan: Pretend Ted Cruz Never Happened – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire

John Boehner’s New Plan: Pretend Ted Cruz Never Happened



Assuming all goes well with the Republicans’ meeting at the White House on Thursday, Politico reports that Speaker John Boehner may be amenable to reopening the government during budget talks. Meaning, one, that Obama wins this round and, two, that the budget conversation has essentially been reset to mid-September, before Sen. Ted Cruz’s de facto coup.

From Politico:

Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 — just before the Thanksgiving recess — while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding.

If that proposal works for Obama, “senior Republican sources say that Boehner could have enough internal political capital to move a bill next week to reopen government until Nov. 22.” The time between now and November 22, then, would be used for the sort of high-level negotiations on the budget that both sides say they crave.

Please note: this is precisely what the president has advocated. While the timeframe is almost certainly shorter than Obama would have liked, he called for no negotiations until Republicans reopened government and lifted the debt ceiling. According to Politico, that could be in the cards. In fact, that extension is almost entirely in line with what Senate Democrats advocated in September: a funding bill that lasts until mid-November during which time both sides work out a bigger deal. Assuming that Republicans don’t start thinking of this as a victory for Obama and balk, the Democratic victory is essentially complete, despite the enthusiasm displayed by the House Republican caucus on Thursday morning.

But for Boehner, there’s also a huge benefit to setting up the fight this way. He gets a do-over! Instead of having to make the case that an emphasis on defunding Obamacare was perilous, that the GOP would suffer if the government were shut down for an extended period of time, he just has to jerk his thumb over his shoulder and suggest that they try another path. Boehner, you may recall, never wanted to pick this doomed fight over Obamacare. He wanted to do exactly what this new plan allows: come up with a compromise proposal leveraging the debt limit and the end of the fiscal year. But then Ted Cruz happened, and everything blew up.

Cruz’s ascension to a position of leadership in the party has, in the tradition of past coups, been a failure. Despite Cruz’s odd self-funded poll that he released on Wednesday, obliquely arguing that he was right all along, this entire thing has been a debacle for Cruz with everyone but the conservative base he hopes come to the polls in 2016. (And, apparently, for Cruz’s partner-in-dissent, Utah Sen. Mike Lee.) According to Gallup, Cruz’s popularity has undergone a 16-point swing to the negative since June.

So. We dust off our hands, turn back the clock (once it starts working again), and try this whole thing again. From the start of the shutdown there was speculation that Boehner just needed to let his right-wing members vent. Instead, they’ve been sitting around for ten days rapidly losing blood. When it comes to negotiations with the president, Boehner’s position isn’t too much worse than it was a month ago. But his ability to tell the far-right to shut up has improved enormously.

Update, 6:20 p.m.: It sounds as though the meeting may not have been the unalloyed success on which Politico’s report was predicated.

 John Boehner’s New Plan: Pretend Ted Cruz Never Happened – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire.


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Reid Schools The GOP, ‘The government should open because it never should have been closed.’

Reid Schools Republicans, ‘The government should open because it never should have been closed.’

By: Sarah Jones
Saturday, October 12th, 2013


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t fall for the Republican dirty bomb and neither did President Obama.

As the news broke that President Obama was not going to be fooled by the dirty bombs in the House Republicans’ 6 week offer to extend their hostage taking into Christmas, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) ‏tweeted, “President has shown willingness to talk. Problem is that it’s a one-way conversation; Republicans are not interested in being constructive.”

As Jason Easley explained this morning, Senator Reid is correct. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did not offer a clean debt ceiling bill. He offered a dirty bomb set to explode at Christmas, which is like offering to take the most hostages possible. That is the direct opposite of what Obama told Republicans he would accept.

On the Senate floor Saturday, Reid also schooled Republicans on their shutdown, “Allowing government to operate again that’s not a a favor to me, that’s not a favor to the presiding officer, that’s not a favor to Democrats this side of the aisle. It’s something that should just happen. The government should open because it should never have closed in the first place.”

Again, for the simpletons, President Obama will not be accepting anything that does not put this nation first. That means no hostages. Republicans need to pay the bills as the Constitution mandates they must. Our debt is not something Republicans can just refuse to pay Constitutionally. So much for the Tea Party’s alleged love for even the cliff notes version of the Constitution.

Manu Raju, Senior Congressional Reporter for Politico, tweeted that the Senate Democrats rejected Senator Collins plan because it “asks too much for too little”:

So it falls to Reid and McConnell in the Senate, even as voices clamor to bring in Mr. Fix It, it’s a BFD, V.P. Joe Biden.

“I was happy to see the Republicans engaged in talks with the president, the House Republicans. That’s over with. It’s done. They’re not talking anymore,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said according to Politico. “I say to my friends on the Republican side of this Senate, time is running out.”

Time is running out. This Thursday, we default unless Republicans drop their guns.

John Boehner and House Republicans are still trying to trick Obama and the Democrats. By doing so, they are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of American voters. There has been far too much gamesmanship going on.

Last night, I wrote that Republicans have not offered one single thing from the Democrats’ agenda. All Republicans are offering is to wait until Christmas to blow the country up, because even more people and businesses would be terrified then, so they’d have a bigger ransom. For this, Republicans expect their fiscal “agenda” to be enacted, even though the voters roundly rejected it.

Here’s the key for Republicans. Reid said Obama “has been willing” to talk. Obama is willing to talk about budget negotiations after Republicans drop the gun. No doubt the President explained this during their meeting so that even Republicans could understand that he meant business.

Real negotiations would look like this: Republicans agree to fund the government and do their Constitutional duty to pay our bills with no conditions, after all, they are not terrorists. AFTER these things are in order, Republicans would finally be willing to have that budget conference they refused to attend all summer. At this conference, the two sides would negotiate, which means that each side would get a few things and each side would give a few things. (Hint: The budget would not resemble Paul Ryan’s budget that even Republicans couldn’t make work.)

And that is exactly why House Republicans have been avoiding conference, because they do not want to concede anything. It’s all their way or the country gets it. They continue to ignore the warnings from the grown ups that this is not play. The GOP tempter tantrum is actually getting worse instead of better, as their defiance to discipline and reality causes them to escalate their bad behavior.

If Republicans keep on like this, they will force people to admit that they are out of control and need to be removed from power. This is no way to run a country.

 Reid Schools The GOP, ‘The government should open because it never should have been closed.’.


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Obama Gives Republicans Nothing By Rejecting Boehner’s 6 Week Debt Ceiling Offer

Obama Gives Republicans Nothing By Rejecting Boehner’s 6 Week Debt Ceiling Offer

By: Jason Easley
Saturday, October 12th, 2013



Speaker Boehner announced today that President Obama has rejected the House Republican offer to keep their hostages by raising the debt ceiling and opening the government for six weeks.

According to Politico, “Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans Saturday morning that his efforts to strike a deal with President Barack Obama are at a standstill. There is no agreement, Boehner said in a room in the Capitol Saturday, and no negotiations between House Republicans and the White House, since Obama rejected the speaker’s effort to lift the debt ceiling for six weeks and reopen the government while setting up a budget negotiating process.”

There were several big problems with the Boehner’s proposal. The bill he was proposing would have allowed the House Republicans to get out of political hot water right now, andkeep their options open to shut down the government and threaten default during the holiday season. Boehner also refused to offer a clean bill. What Boehner proposed would have taken away all options for the president to avoid default if no agreement was reached. In essence, what Boehner was offering was to release his hostages today, so that he could take bigger ones in six weeks. The biggest problem with what the House Republicans tried to pass off as an offer was that they didn’t give up anything.

As Sarah Jones wrote, “None of these “offers” is a Democratic goody. In exchange for Republicans dropping a few loaded guns, Democrats get to enact more Republican fiscal ideology — ideology that Republicans couldn’t even make work when they tried. Republicans have not offered one single thing that Democrats want, like passage of Obama’s jobs bills or money for infrastructure (perhaps an easier sell for Senate Republicans).”

The House offer was not legitimate, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from complaining that President Obama won’t work with them. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said, “The president has got to be open to working with us. Democrats have got to understand we have a seat the table and we have a right to be involved in negotiations.”

House Republicans still don’t get the fact that this is not a negotiation. They aren’t going to get anything for doing their jobs. The president will be happy to work with them after they open the government and raise the debt ceiling.

The Republicans in the House are already promising not to vote for a bill being drafted by Republican Sen. Susan Collins that would raise the debt ceiling through January 2014, and keep the government funded through March of 2014. The potential Senate Republican proposal comes closer to what the president wants, but it isn’t as good as Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) plan to raise the debt ceiling through December 31, 2014.

The main reason why House Republicans won’t support the Collins bill is that it would push any potential government shutdown into the 2014 election. The odds of even these House Republicans defaulting, or shutting down the government during their own reelection campaigns is slim.

President Obama did the right thing by rejecting Boehner’s sham offer. These games have to stop. House Republicans don’t get to offer a postponement of their threat to destroy the economy. President Obama wants nothing less than an end to the pattern of House Republican hostage taking, and it looks like that is exactly what he is going to get.

 Obama Gives Republicans Nothing By Rejecting Boehner’s 6 Week Debt Ceiling Offer.


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Obama Holds Position, Republicans “Mystified” And Another Party Line Vote | All Things Democrat

Obama Holds Position, Republicans “Mystified” And Another Party Line Vote

Saturday, October 12th, 2013  by Ken


Talks between congressional Republicans and the White House have broken down. Speaker John Boehner and his flock are not taking this well.

Speaker John A. Boehner told House Republicans on Saturday that the White House has rejected their compromise proposal to lift the nation’s debt ceiling and possibly reopen the government, while blaming President Obama for failing to negotiate in good faith.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said that Boehner (R-Ohio) told his rank-and-file in a closed-door meeting that, in retrospect, it was “obvious” that Obama “had no intention of negotiating with us in good faith.”

Asked to characterize the mood of his party members as they left the meeting, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said, “People are incredulously mystified.”

For more than a year President Obama has been telling anyone who would listen that he would not negotiate on the debt limit or under the threat of a government shutdown. Now Republicans are “incredulously mystified” that Obama is doing what he told them he would do?

Republicans are used to taking hostages and then having Democrats wheedle all over themselves giving concessions in order to free the hostages. That cycle is being broken, and Republicans are just mystified by the new state of affairs.

Congressional Democrats and the White House need to stop talking with congressional Republicans until this is resolved. Just talking gives the impression that a deal can be reached, and the only deal that is acceptable at this point is for the debt ceiling to be raised and the government funded, no strings attached. It is not the Democrats fault that Republicans followed the radicals over the cliffs edge. Republicans got themselves into this mess and any sort of concession to open the government and raise the debt ceiling only lets them off the hook while encouraging future hostage taking.

Besides, at this point, what is it Democrats would get out of any short term deal? Reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling for six weeks in exchange for concessions by Democrats is precisely backwards. Democrats should be demanding concessions by Republicans in order to get out of the mess they find themselves in. How about a stimulus package, raise the cap on social security taxable income and movement on the immigration bill stalled in congress in order to allow the Republicans to extricate themselves from the mess they created?

Looking at senate action, a proposal to extend the debt ceiling for a year was approved with a vote of 53 for to 45 against. That… somehow means the measure actually failed because for anything to pass through the senate these days requires 60 votes. The vote was split down party lines.

Another way to look at a straight party vote in the senate on extending the debt ceiling is that Republicans have maintained rock solid party unity when the votes are counted. They lose a pebble now and then but what difference does that make? They are fighting like caged rabid Mongolian weaseltigers amongst themselves in public but entertaining as that may be, what difference does that exchange of hot air between Republican factions really make? When the chips are down and the votes are counted, they remain united.

 Obama Holds Position, Republicans “Mystified” And Another Party Line Vote | All Things Democrat.


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Week Two of the Shutdown: Will There Be a Compromise? – Defense One

Billy House National Journal

Week Two of the Shutdown: Will There Be a Compromise?

As the shutdown concludes its first week Monday, lawmakers will return to the Capitol mired in their stalemate and rising anxiety over what happens when the nation’s credit hits its limit, which the administration says will occur next week.

The dual urgency of both matters, some lawmakers say, is a call for broader negotiations on a single big deal to restart government and lift the $16.7 trillion debt cap to avert a first-ever national default. But even small compromises have been elusive.

President Obama reaffirmed this weekend he “won’t pay ransom” to House Republican demands to make changes to the Affordable Care Act in exchange for reopening government.

Meanwhile, some Republicans have said that there may be ways to achieve similar economic goals through negotiations over policies other than Obamacare.

“If we can make the same or bigger difference doing something other than [targeting] Obamcare, I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it,” Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said Saturday.

Overall, congressional activity has slowed. House GOP leaders poked fun at the Senate on Saturday for having taken few roll-call votes last week while giving unanimous consent to measures like one designating this National Chess Week. At the same time, the House’s piecemeal budget bills—recognized as dead-on-arrival in the Senate—continue to dominate floor time there.

Many congressional hearings were canceled or postponed last week. This week, hearings and other congressional activities are fewer than usual, with exceptions for Republican scrutiny or attacks on Obama’s health care law. Here are some of this week’s highlights:

·         The House is set to continue floor action on various partial funding bills, though the Senate has already said it won’t take them up.

·         The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has set a hearing for Wednesday to look into the Internal Revenue Service’s role in implementing and enforcing the Affordable Care Act.

·         A House Small Business subcommittee will look Wednesday into how Obamacare’s definition of full-time employee impacts small businesses.

·         The Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs will hold a hearing Tuesday on security and governance in Somalia, called “Consolidating Gains, Confronting Challenges, and Charting the Path Forward.”

·         The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on whether U.S. aid to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake has been effective.

·         The House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday entitled the “EPA vs. American Mining Jobs: The Obama Administration’s Regulatory Assault on the Economy.”

·         The House Homeland Security Committee has set a hearing for Friday on the “implications” of last month’s Navy Yard shootings on homeland security.

Still, attention will remain be focused on the shutdown, the budget deadlock, and the looming debt-ceiling crisis. Meanwhile, Obama had a packed overseas travel schedule this week, but thanks to the shutdown, he is staying put.

Republican Introspection

The government shutdown fight is now merging into the fight over keeping the nation out of default. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent Congress an updated warning last week that the official deadline projected for the nation to run out of borrowed money remains Oct. 17, when the Treasury’s balance is projected to be about $30 billion (though the continuation of the government shutdown might provide additional breathing room).

But at some point soon, unless the cap is lifted, the government will only be able to pay bills only equal to the amount of tax receipts and other money it has coming in.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has told his members that he believes this is one of the few times during his career in Congress that is right for a so-called “grand bargain” to resolve both budget and spending issues and long-term drivers of the nation’s debts and deficits.

But there remains no clear path out of the current budget stalemate and shutdown, much less how congressional Republicans can come to an agreement with Democrats and the White House on extending the nation’s ability to borrow. Boehner and Republicans have said they will demand spending cuts and other policy reforms and concessions in return for an agreement, while Obama and Democrats say they will not bargain over the nation’s ability to pay its bills. Obama and Senate Democrats have also said they will not accept any effort to defund, delay or dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Adding to this mix is the widespread belief that Boehner is hamstrung by conservatives in his conference from moving on a stopgap spending bill without anti-Obamacare language.

However, there were signs Saturday that more House Republicans—beyond a cadre of 20 or so moderates—may be starting to pivot away from such a staunch position. One example is Farenthold.

“We’re trying to get the economy fixed. If we can come up with ways to fix the economy and get the same bang for the buck you could get with [targeting] Obamacare, then let’s do it,” he said, adding that he believes the thinking of some of his other colleagues also “is evolving.”

Farenthold was among the 79 cosigners of a letter this summer that many say rallied House GOP conservatives around the idea that defunding Obamacare had to be part of any bill Congress should pass to keep government funded.

“We’re not a bunch of hard-headed fools,” Farenthold said Saturday. “Obamacare’s a big shiny apple that we think will save the economy, but there are lots of other slightly less shiny apples that can make a big difference—tax reform, entitlement reform, regulatory reform, spending cuts.”

Some of those measures could be sought by Republicans in return for agreeing to increase the debt ceiling.

“I came up here [to Washington] to make a difference,” said Farenthold, who was elected to the House as part of the tea-party wave in 2010. “I did not come up here to kick and scream and sit in my office and not have anything accomplished.”

The Republican battle over Obamacare “I think, will live and be fought another day,” he said. “Because I think it will collapse under its own weight, especially young people who are going to be under the individual mandate screaming about what they are going to pay for full-service coverage, when they’d be fine with catastrophic coverage.”

Farenthold refuted a suggestion he may be caving because of public pressure and anger over the shutdown.

“Most of the messages we’re getting from Texas are, ‘Hang on, you’re doing the right thing,’ ” he said. But he acknowledged that calls his Washington office is receiving—from outside Texas—”have been some pretty profanity-laced phone calls. We’ve had the f-word dropped.”

Other Republicans who signed the letter this summer, speaking privately, also suggested Saturday it was time to “move on.”

Back to Work

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement Saturday that most furloughed employees at the Defense Department will return to work this week.

Hagel said that some language within the Pay Our Military Act, signed by Obama just a few hours before the government shut down, lends to the retention of Defense Department civilian employees “whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

This means that nearly 400,000 furloughed DOD workers are eligible to resume their jobs. DOD worked with the Justice Department to clarify that the new legislation does not permit a blanket recall of all civilian employees.

Prior to the announcement, defense contractors started sending some workers on unpaid leave.

Defense giant Lockheed Martin announced on Friday it will furlough about 3,000 employees from across all its business areas starting on Monday. More companies are expected to follow suit; 1,000 contractors who work in BAE Systems’ intelligence and security sectors were sent home and up to 15 percent of its workforce could be impacted.

Many defense contracts, technically, should not have been significantly affected by a shutdown, since the money that funds their contracts was largely obligated in prior years.

Nominations Pending

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to consider the nominations of Michael Connor for deputy Interior secretary and Elizabeth Robinson for Energy undersecretary.

In September, Robinson said she is committed to working with the Energy Committee on radioactive cleanup efforts at a former nuclear weapons site in Hanford, Wash.

The site came into the spotlight last week when the Energy department’s Office of Inspector General released a report saying that construction of a nuclear-waste treatment plant there has not been subject to proper oversight and inspection by government contractor Bechtel.

Surviving the Glitches

Obamacare survived its glitchy first week. But visitors to on Friday afternoon—more than 72 hours after the online marketplace for insurance was open for business—still received messages indicating that the site was temporarily inaccessible due to excess traffic.

“We have a lot of visitors on the site right now,” it said. “Please stay on this page.”

As of Friday, the administration declined to provide enrollment numbers for the first week. But HHS touted the volume of traffic to, attributing the glitches experienced by many users to excess interest rather than other software problems. Expect continued headlines—and spin—about people who have signed up successfully—and those who haven’t.

Also this week, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Tuesday morning with the executive director of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and others to discuss how to improve post-acute care for Medicare patients.

Staying Home

Obama’s travel schedule this week had included four countries, two major summits, and 23 world leaders in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, including critical trade talks and meetings with the leaders of China and Russia.

But that was before the shutdown. Now, he’s staying put and looking to add things to a suddenly blank calendar.

 Week Two of the Shutdown: Will There Be a Compromise? – Defense One.


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Boehner sees no end in sight to shutdown – Nation – The Boston Globe

Boehner sees no end in sight to shutdown

Says Obama must make concessions; Treasury secretary warns of fiscal risk

By Tracy Jan


 OCTOBER 07, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner dismissed any immediate path to ending the government shutdown Sunday.


House Speaker John Boehner dismissed any immediate path to ending the government shutdown Sunday.


WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner dismissed any immediate path to ending the government shutdown Sunday, prolonging Washington’s political impasse as the nation heads toward the greater threat of defaulting on its debts for the first time in history.

In his first nationally televised interview since the shutdown began Tuesday, Boehner dug in his heels and said he has no plans to fund the federal government without winning concessions on President Obama’s health care law, or raising the debt ceiling before an Oct. 17 deadline without reducing spending.

“We are not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.’’ “We are not going down that path.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew accused Congress of “playing with fire.’’ Reopening the government and paying the nation’s bills are not matters that should have to be negotiated, he said.

The comments from both sides made it clear that America’s political leaders have no clear plan for ending the stalemate.

Boehner’s hard line Sunday appeared to contradict media reports last week that he had privately indicated a willingness to seek a vote by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to prevent default, even if it means crossing the Tea Party wing of his caucus. At least 20 mainstream conservative Republicans have said they are willing to join with Democrats to pass a “clean” resolution to raise the debt, without spending cuts or other conditions.

For the time being, at least, Boehner presented a united GOP front and said there is no change in strategy or a move toward a deal.

“There may be a backroom somewhere but there’s nobody in it,” Boehner said.

Boehner blamed Obama for not being willing to negotiate terms of a debt-ceiling increase. Asked directly whether he expects the country to default, Boehner responded, “It’s the path we’re on.”

“His [Obama’s] refusal to negotiate is putting this country at risk.’’ Boehner said. “I am not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up.”

Lew, also appearing on the Sunday news circuit, called the current impasse “very dangerous” and “reckless” because it jeopardizes the government’s ability to make Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability and veterans payments on time once the country reaches its borrowing limit.

“If they don’t extend the debt limit, we have a very, very short window of time before those scenarios start to be played out,” Lew said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

If the country runs out of its ability to borrow and is short on cash, Lew said, “It will mean that the United States, for the first time since 1789, would be not paying its bills, hurting the full faith and credit, because of a political decision.”

Lew blamed the shutdown on the GOP’s Tea Party faction, which he called “an extreme group trying to say we’re willing to do real damage if we don’t get our way.”

In a positive development for federal workers, the Pentagon said Saturday that it would be bringing hundreds of thousands of civilian employees back to work this week after they were furloughed last week, a move that should relieve some of the economic hardship on communities with a large military presence. The original furlough sent 800,000 employees home; the Department of Defense has 350,000 of those workers, most of whom would be brought back.

The partisan intransigence also broke briefly during a rare Saturday session when the House voted unanimously to restore pay to the 800,000 furloughed federal employees once the shutdown ends.

The 407-to-0 vote followed a series of piecemeal budget measures last week in which Republicans attempted to selectively restore funding to high-profile federal programs such as the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, national parks and memorials, and a nutrition program for low-income women and children.

Representative Steve King, an Iowa Tea Party Republican, said Sunday that the House Republican strategy is to continue floating individual bills to fund the government — all except the health law.

“We will march down that line a piece at a time, opening up as many pieces of government as we can,” King said on CNN. “The lid is on the pressure cooker. The clamps are down and the pressure gets turned up every day.”

The Democratic-controlled Senate has said it would reject such partial measures, and Obama has promised a veto.

Boehner dismissed criticism among Democrats, and even some Republicans, that he has ceded control of the GOP agenda in Congress to Senator Ted Cruz, the Tea Party Republican from Texas who spearheaded the fight against the president’s health care plan, by allowing the government to shut down.

“I thought the fight would be over the debt ceiling. But you know, working with my members, they decided, well, let’s do it now,” Boehner said. “The fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or the other.”

Cruz said Sunday that the debt ceiling fight is the best leverage Congress has to achieve its goals of weakening the health care plan. He told CNN that any debt-ceiling deal needs to include a “significant” plan to reduce government spending, avoid new taxes and “mitigate the harms from” the president’s health care law.

Cruz brushed off any notion of a “cooling off” period during which Congress passes a clean spending bill and increases the debt limit for six weeks, enabling both sides to negotiate.

Obama urged Boehner to put a “clean” bill — stripped of any language about the health law, his signature domestic achievement — up for a vote, believing there are enough votes to both immediately reopen the government and raise the debt limit in order to prevent the United States from being a “deadbeat” on its obligations.

“The only thing that’s preventing that from happening is Speaker Boehner calling the vote,” Obama told the Associated Press.

But Boehner said Obama is the one who is putting the nation’s credit at risk. Boehner said he decided to stay in Washington for the weekend in light of Obama canceling his trip to Asia, expecting the two sides to sit down and begin hashing out a deal.

“He knows what my phone number is, all he has to do is call,” Boehner said. “I’m ready to talk. I’ve been ready to talk,” he said. “I’m a reasonable guy.”

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Democrats will negotiate but only “without a gun to our head.” He said despite Boehner’s claims to the contrary, the brinkmanship can end this week only if Boehner allows a “clean” vote.

 Boehner sees no end in sight to shutdown – Nation – The Boston Globe.


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Republicans Finally Confronting Reality: They’re Trapped! | Alternet

  TEA PARTY AND THE RIGHT / By Brian Beutler

Republicans Finally Confronting Reality: They’re Trapped!

Obama’s ironclad resolve not to negotiate over the debt limit appears to finally be sinking in among GOP leaders.

Photo Credit: By United States House of Representatives ( [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

October 4, 2013


After struggling for weeks and weeks in stages one through four, Republicans are finally entering the final stage of grief over the death of their belief that President Obama would begin offering concessions in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.

The catalyzing event appears to have been an hour-plus-long meeting between Obama and congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday. Senior administration officials say that if the meeting accomplished only one thing it was to convey to Republican leaders the extent of Obama’s determination not to negotiate with them over the budget until after they fund the government and increase the debt limit. These officials say his will here is stronger than at any time since he decided to press ahead with healthcare reform after Scott Brown ended the Democrats’ Senate supermajority in 2010.

There’s evidence that it sunk in.

First, there’s this hot mic moment in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that the president’s position is ironclad.

Then we learn that House Speaker John Boehner has told at least one House Republican privately what he and McConnell have hinted at publicly for months, which is that they won’t execute their debt limit hostage. Boehner specifically said, according to a New York Times report, and obliquely confirmed by a House GOP aide, that he would increase the debt limit before defaulting even if he lost more than half his conference on a vote.

None of this is to say that Republicans have “folded” exactly, but they’ve pulled the curtain back before the stage has been fully set for the final act, and revealed who’s being fitted with the red dye packet.

If they got the same explanation from the president that I and several other writers got from senior officials at a White House briefing today, they know that for Obama this is more than just about preventing his own personal embarrassment (at having caved) and more than about his individual legacy (which will be harmed even if Republicans bear the brunt of the blame for a default). He sees “right sizing” the executive branch, and leaving it in better shape than when he inherited it, as a core responsibility of his presidency. Reducing the scope of executive powers in the foreign policy realm is one piece of it. But it would be a complete abdication, in his mind, to leave the next president vulnerable to the nullification of his or her election.

This is the crucial context in which to read separate reports that Republicans want to revisit the “grand bargain.” For the most part, this is just a hangover from the denial phase — Republicans talking to each other, trying to convince themselves that they can walk away from the debt limit with some concession. But they’re also hoping to draw Obama into a negotiation he can’t later extract himself from. It’s not going to work, administration officials say. They are happy to entertain budget negotiations after the debt limit increases. And during those negotiations they believe Republicans can legitimately use the leverage sequestration gives them to extract concessions. But only then. No more negotiating over the budget before the debt limit goes up, as long as factions within the Republican Party are prepared to default.

The only thing that might change Obama’s position is if Boehner decided to sprint into his waiting arms, burning his bridges to House conservatives behind him. If Boehner wanted to finish the budget deal he almost reached with Obama late last year, revenue and all, then throw in a debt limit increase, and a budget for the government, Obama wouldn’t freeze him out. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what Boehner has in mind.

Boiling it all down, this means that Republicans only have one viable way to save face. And that is to come up with something non-substantive — a procedural side-car like “No Budget, No Pay” — that’s independent from the debt limit itself, tack it on to a debt limit increase, and put it on the floor.

 Republicans Finally Confronting Reality: They’re Trapped! | Alternet.


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We Negotiate With Terrorists, Why Not With Congress? – Defense One

We Negotiate With Terrorists, Why Not With Congress?

As the shutdown drags on, the most popular meme among Democrats is to portray the House Republicans as political terrorists with whom one cannot bargain as a matter of principle. President Obama himself drove home the harsh analogy in remarks in the Rose Garden on Tuesday that revealed his apparent contempt for his opponents and appeared to slam the door on further talks. The Republicans, the president said, were demanding “ransom just for doing their jobs” and “don’t get to hold the entire government hostage.” As White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer put it on CNN, Obama is not going to negotiate “with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”

But if the administration’s approach is to cast the House GOP members as jihadists wielding ballots instead of bullets, then perhaps it should adopt the same policy it applies to real terrorists: Don’t negotiate at all in public, but meanwhile search for every back channel you can. Even among Republican jihadists, there are interlocutors to be found and not unreasonable inducements — like a repeal of the medical-device tax — to offer up. 

The real danger of the current standoff, after all, is not how long the shutdown extends over the GOP’s desperate and futile effort to halt or slow the implementation of Obamacare, painful though this is for the nearly 800,000 government workers already furloughed. The shutdown is likely to be resolved sooner rather than later. The risk is that there will be so little resolution of the underlying issues that by the time the more important debt-limit issue comes around in a couple of weeks, the U.S. risks an economic disaster by defaulting on its debt.

So between now and then, the administration needs to quietly reach out to wavering House Republicans, just as it often covertly does with actual terrorists.

The government’s putative policy of not negotiating with terrorists is, in truth, a pretend policy. As we know from history, when terrorists hold many precious lives in their hands — in this case, the viability of the entire U.S. economy — you do find ways of quietly negotiating, sometimes deploying out-of-the-box inducements. That is what has been done secretly in hostage negotiations going back to the Iranian seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979—which ended, recall, with the dramatic release of the hostages on the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, following many months of talks through secret channels.

It’s also what happened in the 2000s, when the U.S. and Britain opened up negotiations with Libya over the culprits behind the Pan Am 103 bombings and the Qaddafi regime’s nuclear weapons. Back then, too, there was a big difference between the “official” story of what the government was doing and what it was actually doing. As the Bush administration liked to tell it, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was scared straight by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and promptly gave up his life’s work as an international terrorist, renouncing both his weapons of mass destruction program and his terror tactics. What really happened, as corroborated by multiple sources, is that Qaddafi cut a deal in 2003 only after the British and Americans quietly assured him that President Bush would settle for “policy change” — that is, giving up his nukes — rather than regime change. Qaddafi may have been scared, but he needed a concession too.

President Obama is showing some confidence that he can simply wait out the Republicans on the shutdown. And perhaps he can: already some of the more reasonable House GOP members are saying privately that they plan to give the tea party a day or two of triumphal rhetoric, and then they expect Speaker John Boehner to call a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution that will fund the government without tying in Obamacare. “If the GOP leadership brings a clean CR [continuing resolution to fund the government] to the floor it will get a majority of the majority — maybe not today, but tomorrow or Thursday,” says Rich Galen, a former advisor to Newt Gingrich when the latter, as speaker, forced the previous shutdown 17 years ago.

But in the end, Obama is probably going to have to give the wavering Republicans something too, no matter how small, in order to avoid debt-limit Armageddon by Oct. 17. That’s when, according to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Congress must authorize more borrowing if the government is to pay its bills and not default on U.S. Treasury bonds, roiling global markets. To avoid this outcome, Obama’s best bet may be to follow the advice that his badly missed former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, knew well — reach out one by one, find the reasonable doubters who are less than certain of the sanctity of the jihad, and help to find them a way out of the box they’re all in.

Obama is right when he says, with pride, that the issue of Obamacare has been voted on already by the Congress and the electorate in the presidential election, as well as by the Supreme Court.  But it will avail him nothing to inveigh against the unreasonableness of the House Republicans, or to appeal to their sense of political survival in the face of national polls showing they will be disproportionately blamed. Many of them simply don’t care about the national polls, or about the national fate of the Republican Party. As my colleagues Ron Brownstein and Charlie Cook write, many House districts are far more safely “red” or “Republican” than in the past.

Something will have to change hands.

 We Negotiate With Terrorists, Why Not With Congress? – Defense One.


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