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Wonkbook: One nation, two health-care systems

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In the last two weeks, Oregon has cut the ranks of its uninsured by 10 percent through Obamacare.

They're not the only state seeing huge gains. California has signed up 600,000 low-income Golden Staters for the law's expanded Medicaid, and over 100,000 are in some stage of applying for insurance on the marketplaces. In Washington state, over 40,000 people have signed up for Obamacare. In New York, the numbers are even larger. Kentucky's online marketplace has been a model of glitch-free performance, with more than 10,000 signing up on the first day alone.

It's increasingly possible that Obamacare, at least in its early years, will be a success in blue states (and red states run by Democrats, like Kentucky) even as it flails in red states.

Alice Rivlin likes to say that if the law "really were a federal power grab it wouldn’t be so complicated." Instead, it relies heavily on states. And some states are doing a much better job than others -- and the federal government's failures are further pulling the laggards down.

"Unlike Medicare before it," write Sheila Burke and Elaine Kamarck in a new report for the Brookings Institute, "the ACA has built into it a number of key decisions that were left up to states. Among the most important was the decision whether or not to create an insurance exchange. Another decision, whether to expand Medicaid coverage (or not) was not built into the law but came as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on it."

The law's drafters never really saw those as actual decisions. They expected most every state to want to build its own exchange. And, prior to the Supreme Court decision, they believe it impossible for any state to reject the Medicaid expansion.

That's not how it played out, of course. Today, most states with Democratic governors both expanded Medicaid and built their own exchanges while most states with Republican governors rejected the Medicaid expansion and left exchange construction to the federal government.

It's been clear for months that the Medicaid rejections would be a serious problem for the law. In those states, people who make less than the poverty line get nothing under Obamacare, but people who make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line gets subsidies for private insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about six million of the people expected to get health insurance through Obamacare fall through this massive crack.

But more surprising is the fact that the federal exchanges are a mess while the state exchanges are, by and large, working well. Since the states that expanded Medicaid are, for the most part, the same ones that built their own exchanges, that's further widening the divide.

The state-by-state nature of the exchanges creates a potential problem even after the technical problems are fixed: Since each state exchange is its own risk pool, the states where sign-up is difficult and delayed may end up with with fewer healthy people and more sick people then the states where sign-up worked from the beginning. That would mean, in year two, higher premiums for insurance in the exchanges, and more difficulties for the law. The problems will be particularly bad in states that aren't attempting to advertise or otherwise sign young and healthy people up for their exchanges.

The result could be that many blue states see cover both a successful Medicaid expansion and successful exchanges while many red states both reject the Medicaid expansion and see their exchange fail.

To that point: "The Houston Chronicle reported that the elected Republican insurance commissioner for the state of Georgia, Ralph Hudgens, told an audience of the Republican faithful that he and the Republican governor were doing 'everything in our power to be an obstructionist.'"

It's much too early to say anything conclusive, or even very predictive, about Obamacare. As Burke and Kamarck note, a lot of what we're seeing right now are "short-term problems" that will likely be fixed within the first year. But short-term problems can become long-term problems in states where the leadership wants to see Obamacare fail rather than be fixed.

The result may be that Obamacare doesn't do anything as simple as succeed or fail. Instead, it vastly improves the health-care systems of the states that wanted to use it to improve their health-care system while collapsing in the states where the leadership did what they could to undermine the law.

Over time, that could lead to a country with two health-care systems: One, a near-universal system based around Obamacare and centered in blue states; the other, a policy mess based around the rejection of Obamacare in the red states.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 500,000. That's how many enrollments the Department of Health and Human Services projected for insurance exchanges this month. It seems unlikely we'll come anywhere near that, due to serial technological problems. 

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: The Wall Street Journal had the coolest debt-ceiling chart.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) hasta la vista, shutdown; 2) "train wreck" watch; 3) taper talk tapers off; 4) is immigration reform back?; and 5) Snowden speaks.

1) Top story: The shutdown was only a symptom

President, Congress leave one crisis behind but face long road to budget deal. "President Obama and congressional leaders sought Thursday to move beyond the cycle of crisis that has paralyzed Washington for three years, initiating talks over the broad issues at the heart of their fight: the size of government and the level of federal taxation. Neither Republicans nor Democrats held out much hope that the talks would produce an ambitious deal to spur economic growth or tame the $16.7 trillion national debt. But senior Republicans — whose party suffered in opinion polls after forcing the second-longest government shutdown in U.S. history — said they are unlikely to use that lever to challenge Obama again." Lori Montgomery and Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

...And here's what the conferees will be aiming for. "To improve the prospects for some success, the negotiators largely agreed at a closed-door breakfast on Thursday that a deal involving significant new tax revenues and large-scale changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, whose growth in an aging population is driving long-term projections of growing debt, is not going to happen. Instead, they agreed, the talks will aim at a more modest, confidence-building measure to replace the sequestration cuts in 2014. Negotiators could aim higher, for a deal saving at least $1 trillion over the next nine years to substitute completely for the arbitrary sequestration cuts. But neither side was hopeful of that." Jonathan Weisman and Jackie Calmes in The New York Times.

Transcript: President Obama’s Oct. 17 remarks on the budget dealThe Washington Post.

The shutdown probably won’t matter in the 2014 election. It definitely won’t matter in 2016. "There's a tendency in non-election years for political pundits to project the consequences of big political events onto the next election, as if this is off-season and a bad week for the Republican Party is the equivalent of an MCL tear for a linebacker...I'll take the other side of this bet: The events of these last three weeks will have no effect on the 2016 elections. They probably won't even matter much in the 2014 midterm elections...First, basically nothing matters in elections. Once you account for partisanship, the economy, presidential approval and incumbency, there's very little vote left to swing. The main mistake the political class makes about elections is vastly overstating their volatility." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

@resnikoff: Shutdown's over, but the effects for a lot of low-income people are going to linger. It's not like flicking a light switch on and off.

Business is getting tired with the Tea Party and throwing its weight behind establishment Republicans. "Rather than revisit their strategy of supporting Republicans after this week’s near-disaster, influential organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are standing behind Boehner. More important, Boehner’s friends in the business community are getting ready to take sides in a few Republican primary races against tea party candidates in Michigan, Idaho and Alabama who could cause the House speaker more trouble...It’s this decades-long relationship that helps explain why even as one wing of the Republican Party threatened to drive the economy off a cliff, the business community has largely stuck by its party — and its man, Boehner. These lobbyists say they are worried that Boehner has a shaky hold over his caucus." Jia Lynn Yang and Tom Hamburger in The Washington Post.

In a crisis, Republicans again turn to Mitch McConnell. "By Tuesday night, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) realized he had run out of luck. House Republicans had failed once again to pass critical legislation out of their chamber, so the Democrats who control the Senate had all the leverage...McConnell, perhaps the most accomplished congressional dealmaker of his time, scrambled to pick up the pieces. Thursday, he settled on an extended football metaphor to describe his predicament: He was a backup quarterback thrust into the game after the starter got knocked out with a concussion, and he was backed up against his own end zone with little protection." Paul Kane in The Washington Post.

Interview: Sen. Mitch McConnellRobert Costa in National Review Online.

How McConnell sees it. "[I]f House Republicans had been able to unify and pass bills like Speaker Boehner's "Plan B" during the fiscal cliff negotiations of late last year, or a last-ditch plan in the recent negotiations earlier this week that would have achieved more of Republican goals, McConnell would have had better leverage to force Senate Democrats to negotiate a deal more to Republicans' liking. But Boehner has been unable to pass those alternate plans because a significant contingent of his caucus views them as not conservative enough. That leaves Boehner needing Democratic votes to pass any ultimate plan, and McConnell, who has only a minority of the Senate, with little leverage." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Background: Who is National Review's Robert Costa, and why does he matterJoe Coscarelli in New York Magazine.

Was the debt standoff American politics at its best, or worst? "Look, there's no question this episode has been damaging, both for individual Americans who have been temporarily unemployed, and for America's standing around the world. But as ugly as it has been, this is a moment where the center held. The grown-ups of the Republican Party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, said, "Enough!" It's hard to know for sure just now, but I suspect the whole episode has been damaging enough that they'll come into the next standoff, in January and February, with a different understanding of the costs and risks of extreme tactics." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

@conor64: Compare cost of Iraq War to cost of government shutdown. Both dumb, unforced errors. Establishment mistake far more costly, irresponsible.

Republicans don’t love Barack Obama. But do they fear him? "Will even lawmakers who loathe the president and his policies decide they are better off entering the 2014 election with a record of some actual accomplishment, rather than leaving voters with sour taste from the shutdown and near-default? Will mainstream conservatives decide they fear the president and center-right business interests more than they do the far-right extreme of the conservative coalition? If the answer is yes, the nation could get a more sensible approach to deficit reduction, a better tax code and a more reasonable immigration policy out of all this. If the answer is no, it will be a long 13 months between now and the 2014 election, with many more forced crises and little actual lawmaking." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Republicans reassess after shutdown debacle. "That the government shutdown was a political disaster for the party that engineered it is widely acknowledged, except by the most ardent tea partyers. And that near-unanimity presents an opportunity for the establishment to strike back — and maybe regain some control from the insurgent wing. “You roll them,” advised former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). “I do think we need stronger leadership, and there’s got to be some pushback on these guys who think they came here with all the solutions.”" Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post.

...Some of them are coming to the realization that Heritage may be part of the problem. "“Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans,” Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, himself a longtime conservative leader in Washington, said Thursday in an interview on MSNBC. “There’s a real question on the minds of many Republicans now — and I’m not just thinking for myself, for a lot of people — is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn’t amount to anything anymore? I hope not.”" Eric Lipton in The New York Times.

@morningmoneyben: Pretty sure Ted Cruz cannot force another shutdown much as he might like to.

Conservative Republicans aren’t done fighting the new health-care law. "Fresh off an unsuccessful attempt to block the president’s sweeping Affordable Care Act, several conservative Republicans announced Thursday that they have decided on their next political target: the Affordable Care Act. The temporary resolution of the budget battle is likely to intensify, rather than lessen, public scrutiny of the health-care law, commonly known as Obamacare. Chronic problems with the online enrollment system — which have diminished but not disappeared since its Oct. 1 launch — were largely overshadowed by the 16-day fiscal standoff in Washington...House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders announced Thursday that they will hold a hearing Oct. 24 to scrutinize the law’s implementation. They also sent Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter, asking her to reconsider the administration’s decision not to participate." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

No, we didn’t get rid of the debt ceiling forever. "The way it works is that the president gets the power to raise the debt ceiling and then Congress gets an opportunity to take a vote of "disapproval." If that vote passes Congress, then the president can veto the disapproval rule. If Congress can muster the two-thirds majority to overturn the veto, then the president's debt-ceiling increase is rejected. If we made the McConnell mechanism permanent — something the Obama administration favors — it would basically disarm the debt ceiling forever. But last night's deal didn't make the McConnell mechanism permanent. It's only valid until Feb. 7, 2014." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

The government shutdown wasn’t that bad for the politicians. It was terrible for this guy. "He is a line cook at the American Indian Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall. Anderson is not a government employee. He's a contract worker - the government hires his company to make the food for visitors to the museum. When the shutdown closed the museum, Anderson lost his job. He'll now presumably be able to go back to work, but unlike federal workers, he won't get back pay...Anderson is a divorced father of two who usually brings home about $350 a week after taxes and child support. His 16-year-old son lives with him in Washington but commutes by bus and train to high school in Maryland every day. Anderson has no savings - his wages don't leave much cushion for savings - and struggled through the shutdown to pay his rent, put food on the table and pay for his son to travel back and forth to school." Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post.

@pdacosta: U.S. shutdown reshuffling: JP Morgan - "We now project growth of 2.0% in Q4 (down from 2.5%) and 2.5% in Q1 (up from 2.25%)."

DEMINT: We won't back down over Obamacare. "Now that the government shutdown has ended and the president has preserved ObamaCare for the time being, it's worth explaining why my organization, the Heritage Foundation, and other conservatives chose this moment to fight—and why we will continue to fight. The reason is simple: to protect the American people from the harmful effects of this law." Jim DeMint in The Wall Street Journal.

ROSENTHAL: The insufficient craziness theory. "Every time Republicans suffer a rejection of the most right-wing items on their agenda, a significant number decide they haven’t been sufficiently crazy. That was the conclusion that many Republicans drew from the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012. And now that Republicans in Congress have been forced to surrender in their fight with President Obama over the budget, health care and the nation’s credit, some are drawing the same conclusion." Andrew Rosenthal in The New York Times.

DOUTHAT: Was it all Boehner's fault? "This was the methodless madness of the last few weeks: Not the fact that individual House members had rational reasons not to want a deal, not the fact that the Republican caucus encompasses conflicting interests that make dealmaking difficult … but the fact that against that backdrop, enough of the stakeholders involved either actually believed that they could achieve the impossible or felt compelled to pretend that they believed it, which in turn led to a House majority acting against its collective political self-interest in pursuit of an unattainable goal." Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

BARONE: Partisanship. Get used to it. "Voters with vivid memories of the 1930s and '40s were disposed to give large majorities to presidents whose policies seemed to produce peace and prosperity—57% for Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, 61% for Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and for Richard Nixon in 1972, 59% for Ronald Reagan in 1984. Such large majorities gave at least the appearance of consensus. Since 1984, fewer and fewer voters remain who knew that earlier era, making consensus more elusive." Michael Barone in The Wall Street Journal.

KRUGMAN: The damage done. "[I]t’s important to recognize that the economic damage from obstruction and extortion didn’t start when the G.O.P. shut down the government. On the contrary, it has been an ongoing process, dating back to the Republican takeover of the House in 2010. And the damage is large: Unemployment in America would be far lower than it is if the House majority hadn’t done so much to undermine recovery." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

BERNSTEIN: The shutdown shuts down. "The shutdown maybe shaved half a point off economic growth this quarter, so maybe we post a 2 percent growth rate instead of 2.5 percent. And probably some spending that didn’t happen this quarter bleeds into next quarter, so we’ll make some of that loss up later. If we ever get an October jobs report — and weirdly, we might not; the government was closed during the survey week; maybe the Bureau of Labor Statistics can ask respondents in November about their payrolls and job market status in October, but that would create a notable inconsistency — it will surely show a weaker labor market than in prior or coming months." Jared Bernstein in The New York Times.

RALSTON: How Harry Reid won. "If you want an object lesson in why you should never underestimate Harry Reid, his shutdown shutout was a marvel...Frustrated from past presidential capitulations, realizing early on this fight could be won and deaf to the other side’s echo chamber, Reid correctly calculated that all he had to do, no matter what the Republicans tried, was Just Say No." Jon Ralston on his blog.

Music recommendations interlude: The Eagles, "Take It to the Limit."

Top opinion

KLEIN: Higher taxes shouldn’t be the Democratic Party’s top priority. "Democrats should admit the obvious. For the time being, they’ve lost on taxes. And you know what? That’s okay. At least, it could be, if they were willing to admit it and smartly negotiate the terms of their surrender...The worst mistake Democrats could make would be to become the mirror image of Republicans on the tax issue. Republicans are cannibalizing everything they care about -- defense, deficit reduction, their chances of retaking the Senate -- to keep taxes low. The Republican obsession with taxes is an opportunity for Democrats to exploit, not an example for them to mimic...Democrats should use their leverage to get something they actually want. Immigration reform and infrastructure investment are obvious places to start. They mean vastly more to the economy and to people’s lives than slightly higher taxes on rich people." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

BLANCHARD, JAUMOTTE, AND LOUNGANI: How to make labor markets work again. "It is a difficult task to design labour-market institutions so they enhance micro and macro flexibility while protecting workers. Our view is that to have micro flexibility, workers should be protected more through unemployment insurance rather than high employment protection. Dual employment protection should be avoided. Macro flexibility depends critically on the collective bargaining structure. A combination of national and firm-level bargaining seems like an attractive solution to the needs for both flexibility and coordination." Olivier Blanchard, Florence Jaumotte, and Prakash Loungani in VoxEU.

DOVERSPIKE: The false promise of universal pre-K. "Oklahomans are proud of their pre-kindergarten program. Universal, voluntary and administered at no direct cost to families, it enrolls 74 percent of Oklahoma’s four-year-olds...The state of education in Oklahoma overall is basically abysmal. Various groups with various methodologies have ranked Oklahoma near the bottom for math and science, K-12 achievement, reading, and standardized testing. And for big-government types who think it matters, Oklahoma also ranks 49th in state expenditures per student and continues to cut per-student costs. There seems to be a disconnect here." Jennifer Doverspike in The Federalist.

DOLAN: Immigration and the welcoming church. "More than 150 Catholic immigration programs across the nation assist immigrants in becoming Americans. Helping the newcomer to our land feel at home is part of our mission, as Christ reminds us in Matthew 25 that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."...Our nation has been enriched by the remarkable diversity of our citizenry and our ability to weave distinct traditions into one American fabric. With help from the church and other institutions, our country has done a remarkable job of transforming immigrants from other shores into Americans, helping them become full members of our culture and communities." Timothy Dolan in The Wall Street Journal.

Wonkbook is watching this story very closely interlude: House stenographer: Holy Spirit moved me.

2) 'Train wreck' watch

Insurers are getting the wrong data. "Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified. Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans. The flaws could do lasting damage to the law if customers are deterred from signing up or mistakenly believe they have obtained coverage." Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in The Wall Street Journal.

Troubled Obamacare website wasn't tested until a week before launch. "Federal officials did not permit testing of the Obamacare website or issue final system requirements until four to six days before its Oct. 1 launch, according to an individual with direct knowledge of the project. The individual, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the troubled Obamacare website project as suffering from top-level management disarray, changing systems requirements and recurring delays. The root cause of the problems was a pivotal decision by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials to act as systems integrator, the central coordinator for the entire program. Usually this role is reserved for the prime information technology contractor." Richard Pollock in The Washington Examiner.

All eyes on Obamacare. "The end of Washington's budget showdown is likely to shift attention back to President Barack Obama's health law and its rocky rollout, news of which was sometimes submerged in the past 16 days of struggle...Observers on all sides say the shutdown and debt-ceiling fight acted as a distraction from the implementation difficulties of Mr. Obama's signature domestic initiative. "All Republicans did was give him great cover for the complete screw-up on the opening of the exchanges," said Gail Wilensky, a Medicare director in the administration of George H.W. Bush and a board member of insurer UnitedHealth Group." Louise Radnofsky and Christopher Weaver in The Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration projected 500,000 Obamacare sign-ups this month. Can that still happen? "Health and Human Services predicted 500,000 people would enroll in health coverage this month, according to internal memos obtained by the Associated Press. The memo, written in September, was based on Congressional Budget Office data projecting first year sign ups...We don't know, at this point, how many people have signed up for health insurance through Because the site has been very difficult to use, the assumption is not many. One outside estimate pegs the number around 36,000. That's for 34 states that tend to have the highest uninsured rates. That's not so great." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Obamacare just cut Oregon’s uninsured rate by 10 percent. "Though the Oregon's health insurance exchange is not yet up and running, the number of uninsured is already dropping thanks to new fast-track enrollment for the Oregon Health Plan. The low-income, Medicaid-funded program has already signed up 56,000 new people, cutting the state's number of uninsured by 10 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority officials." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Watch: Your Obamacare questions, answeredCasey Capachi in The Washington Post.

The GOP’s income verification ‘concession’ is meaningless. "[T]he deal basically requires two submitted reports in the course of the next year. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is due to submit the first report by Jan. 1, which must detail "the procedures employed by American Health Benefit Exchanges to verify eligibility for credits and cost-sharing reductions described in subsection." Six months later, the HHS inspector general is required to submit a report "regarding the effectiveness of the procedures and safeguards provided under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for preventing the submission of inaccurate or fraudulent information by applicants."" Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Animal rights interlude: This is what humane slaughter looks like. Is it good enough?

3) Taper your taper talk

There's basically no way the Fed will taper at the end of the month. "Just a few months ago, the Fed seemed to be on track to start pulling the program back by September in response to an improving economy. Now, it isn't clear when the first move will occur...Fed officials have said the decision depends on how the economic data evolve, but the data won't be very illuminating into November because the partial government shutdown closed the agencies that collect them." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.

Sign up: Is Congress killing the economy? Join us for the next Wonkblog DebateThe Washington Post.

It's catch-up time for economic statisticians. "The short answer is that the first new figures will be available early next week, but the bigger picture is one of delays stretching into December. What is more, the catch-up process could also help slow any decision by the Federal Reserve to ease back on its stimulus efforts. The most eagerly awaited number, the update from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on unemployment and job creation in September, will come out Tuesday, Oct. 22, two and a half weeks after it was originally supposed to be released. And the October jobs report, originally set for a Nov. 1 release, will be delayed until Friday, Nov. 8. The Consumer Price Index for September will slip from an original release date of Oct. 16 to an Oct. 30 announcement. And the first estimate for economic growth in the third quarter, prepared by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, is vulnerable to a delay from the original release date, Oct. 30." Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times.

Short-term Treasury yields drop after default averted. "The one-month Treasury bill yielded 0.015% at the end of Thursday. It was down from a multiyear high of 0.505% set in Wednesday's trading, before news of a possible deal in Congress sent yields tumbling, according to Tradeweb. Bond yields rise when prices fall. On Thursday, the bill due Oct. 24 yielded 0.018%, down from a multiyear peak of 0.722% Wednesday." Min Zeng in The Wall Street Journal.

New effort to reform US mortgage banks. "A third bill will be introduced to the US Congress to tackle the last major remnant of the financial crisis: reform of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, is the latest lawmaker to put forward a plan to overhaul Fannie and Freddie. The final version will probably reflect a combination of at least two of the proposals." Gina Chon in The Financial Times.

Wes Anderson at last interlude: The trailer for his new movie is out. Watch!

4) So you think you can pass immigration reform?

Democrats renew push for immigration bill. "President Obama and his Democratic allies are using momentum from reopening government to renew their attempts to persuade House Republicans to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill by the end of the year. With Democrats convinced that they have the GOP on the defensive, the president cited the passage of an immigration bill, along with securing a long-term budget and a farm bill, as top priorities over the next three months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also place immigration atop the Democratic agenda for the remainder of the year. But it’s not clear that GOP lawmakers, who took the brunt of public blame for the 16-day shutdown, will be forced to the negotiating table." David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

Can Obama seize the moment and make Washington work? "It’s rare when a president is given an opportunity to reboot in the middle of a term, but that’s what the end of the government shutdown has provided President Obama. The question now is: What will he do with it?...Against a divided foe, with unity among his Democratic forces, Obama might now have an opportunity to lead in ways he hasn’t been able to for most of this year and much of his first term. His success or failure is likely to depend on his ability to exploit those divisions in his and the country’s interests." Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

Wonkbook can help you with practical things too interlude: Like microwave conversion tables. Managed to make that sound wonky somehow.

5) Snowden speaks

New Snowden interview. "Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, said in an extensive interview this month that he did not take any secret N.S.A. documents with him to Russia when he fled there in June, assuring that Russian intelligence officials could not get access to them. Mr. Snowden said he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow, and did not keep any copies for himself. He did not take the files to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” he said...In a wide-ranging interview over several days in the last week, Mr. Snowden offered detailed responses to accusations that have been leveled against him by American officials and other critics, provided new insights into why he became disillusioned with the N.S.A. and decided to disclose the documents, and talked about the international debate over surveillance that resulted from the revelations. The interview took place through encrypted online communications." James Risen in The New York Times.

Europe moves to shield data from U.S. surveillance. "Lawmakers here have introduced a measure in the European Parliament that could require American companies like Google and Yahoo to seek clearance from European officials before complying with United States warrants seeking private data...[A] European Union official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the vote could be further delayed if the United States intervened or if there was heavy lobbying by tech industry groups that oppose the bill." James Kanter in The New York Times.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

The U.S. isn’t about to lose its top spot in science — despite Congress’ best effortsBrad Plumer.

Here’s Walmart’s new strategy for being your everything. Lydia DePillis.

Mitch McConnell delivers some real talk to House RepublicansNeil Irwin.

Obamacare just cut Oregon’s uninsured rate by 10 percentSarah Kliff.

The Obama administration projected 500,000 Obamacare sign-ups this month. Can that still happenSarah Kliff.

Higher taxes shouldn’t be the Democratic Party’s top priorityEzra Klein.

Your Obamacare questions, answeredCasey Capachi.

No, we didn’t get rid of the debt ceiling foreverEzra Klein.

Republicans don’t love Barack Obama. But do they fear him? Neil Irwin.

The shutdown probably won’t matter in the 2014 election. It definitely won’t matter in 2016Ezra Klein.

Was the debt standoff American politics at its best, or worstNeil Irwin.

The GOP’s income verification ‘concession’ is meaninglessSarah Kliff.

The government shutdown wasn’t that bad for the politicians. It was terrible for this guyJim Tankersley.

Et Cetera

Obama to nominate Jeh Johnson, former Pentagon official, as next DHS secretaryScott Wilson and Greg Miller in The Washington Post.

Oil companies sued for waste of natural gasClifford Krauss in The New York Times.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.