Negotiations to end the U.S. government shutdown, now in its third week, were moving in fits and starts as the political debate pivots to the debt ceiling limit and whether or not the government will run out of money to pay its bills by Oct. 17.
Check here for the latest updates.
The ghosts of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) grace the cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine:
Mark Ulriksen, the artist who designed the cover, had this to say: “Boehner and Cruz — these politicians are only after the perpetuation of their own power. There are spider webs growing in the Capitol, bats haunting it, and all this legislation that’s just dying because these guys can’t do anything. The main sign of life is that black cat. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be worth laughing at.”
The government shutdown that started nearly three weeks ago has cost the National Park Service nearly half a million dollars in entrance fees and tens of millions of dollars in visitor spending each day, according to a group representing the agency’s retirees.
The Coalition of National Park Service retirees estimated that the park system has missed out on about 715,000 visitors daily, based on October 2012 attendance numbers, according to a statement last week from the organization.
With talks stalled between House Republicans and the White House, the ball is currently in the court of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who are trying to hash out a deal to end the fiscal impasse.
The thing is, the two aren’t exactly chummy. The Post’s Paul Kane:
The deep animosity between Reid, 73, and McConnell, 71, went public this summer, when they clashed over Democratic efforts to amend filibuster rules. McConnell called Reid “the worst leader in the Senate ever,” and Reid accused McConnell of a “breach of faith” over an earlier agreement designed to smooth the confirmation process for judicial and executive branch nominees.
Their daily clashes became so heated that rank-and-file senators requested a rare bipartisan caucus, which led to a highly unusual marathon meeting of almost all 100 senators in the Old Senate Chamber and a bipartisan pact that averted what Reid had threatened: a unilateral, party-line vote to change the filibuster rules.
The Fix explains the difference between the McConnell-Reid relationship, and the Republican’s rapport with Vice President Biden, with whom he struck the deal to avert the fiscal cliff:
Politics — particularly when the stakes are this high — is a personal business, and trust is at the core of any deal. It’s why McConnell and Vice President Biden were able to negotiate a fiscal cliff deal when no one else could. The two men aren’t even close to ideological allies, but they trusted each other at some basic level. That’s what matters. And that’s what Reid and McConnell seem to lack.
So far there have been no breakthroughs. (The two spoke by phone Sunday, but there’s no deal yet.) With other channels leading nowhere, a whole lot appears to be resting on the Reid-McConnell talks.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) offered this take on talks to end the shutdown, via Twitter:
Shutdown Day 14: A deal is as elusive as old Charlie on the MTA. “His fate is still unlearned.”
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) October 14, 2013
The Post’s Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman report:
U.S. financial markets fell at the opening Monday, potentially sending a message to deadlocked Senate leaders about stalled budget negotiations in Washington with the debt ceiling deadline just three days away.
Stock markets opened at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped about 70 points in the first several minutes.
The Republican National Committee released a round of robocalls charging congressional Democrats with “playing politics” with the shutdown.
“They are playing politics by cutting off our veterans and their benefits,” says the call targeting Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.), as well as Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.). Begich, Landrieu and Hagan all hail from red states and face reelection in 2014.
The calls cite a measure House Republicans passed to ensure veterans benefits even during the shutdown. Since the shutdown started, the House GOP has passed piecemeal funding measures that Senate Democrats have largely rejected.
A version of the robocall also goes after Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.).
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) sounded an optimistic note that lawmakers would reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling by Thursday.
“There is a lot of concern about whether we’re going to meet this deadline, I think at the end of the day we will,” Corker said on NBC’s “Today.” “But to do so, we really have to move ahead today with a Senate agreement, and then the House has got to be open to focusing on those things that make our country stronger.”
The nation will exhaust its borrowing authority on Thursday, according to the Treasury.
Corker criticized the behavior of both Democrats and Republicans in the fiscal talks, charging that House Republicans “overreached” in taking on the health-care law, while Democrats have “overreached” on wanting to spend more.
Former defense secretary Leon Panetta faulted both President Obama and Republicans for the budget standoff that has seized Washington.
“If leadership is not there, we govern by crisis,” said Panetta at a breakfast sponsored by The Wall Street Journal.
He added, “You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the answers. You have to roll up your sleeves … That’s what’s lacking, and it is lacking on all sides.”
So what’s the solution? A budget conference, said Panetta.
“The real governing aspect of this has to take place in a room, in a conference where they are negotiating on the budget,” Panetta said, adding that a big deal is not going to be reached by “some razzle-dazzle supercommittee or a group of muckety-mucks from the outside world.”
Financial markets had soared late last week when word of a possible agreement got out, but retraced much of those gains Monday as the outlook for a deal became much fuzzier.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 0.5 percent at 10:30 a.m., a sell-off driven by greater uncertainty as to what will happen next, which was roughly matched with a 70 point decline in the Dow Jones industrial average.
In a more telling sign of market sentiment, the Vix, a measure of expected future volatility in stock markets, soared 12.4 percent to their highest level since Wednesday.
Bond markets were closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday, but in recent days investors have sold off short-term Treasury bills maturing later in October, fearful that there could be disruptions that prevent the government from making good on its obligations.
Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are out with a new national TV ad campaign urging lawmakers to work together to address the nation’s debt.
“For crying out loud, Erskine, who isn’t fed up with what’s going on in Washington?” Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming asks in the ad.
“Al, it’s going to take some real political courage for folks to start working together. And it’s going to take a push from all of you out there,” says Bowles, who served as White House chief of staff to Bill Clinton.
Together, Bowles and Simpson co-founded “Fix the Debt,” which is the group behind the ad. In 2011, the two famously co-chaired a bipartisan commission tasked with addressing the debt in the wake of congressional inaction. The group fell short of reaching agreement on a proposal.