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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Health Care Signup Begins Amid Government Shutdown

A sign is posted on a barricade in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

A sign is posted on a barricade in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a protracted dispute over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law reached a boiling point, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job. Obama readied a midday statement to the nation as Democrats and Republicans maintained their blame-each-other duel on Capitol Hill.

Even as Obama prepared to meet with citizens signing up for his health care program and then make a lunch-hour speech in the Rose Garden, the White House cut back to a skeletal staff.

The U.S. Capitol canceled tours not personally led by Congress members. “Closed” signs and barricades sprang up at the Lincoln Memorial, and national parks and federal workplaces across the country were following suit.

With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate stalemated, it was unclear how long the shutdown – and the loss of some government programs and services – could last. The Senate early Tuesday rejected the House’s call to form a negotiating committee to resolve the deadlock.

The partial government shutdown will have no immediate effect on the insurance marketplaces because they operate with money that’s not subjected to the annual federal budget.





From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Meghna Chakrabarti, in for Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, there doesn't seem to be a thaw on the horizon between Democrats and Republicans in Washington. We'll talk with NPR's Steve Inskeep about the mood inside the White House.

YOUNG: But first, as you've no doubt heard, federal offices, national parks remain closed on day one of this government shutdown with Congress gridlocked in a battle over funding the Affordable Care Act. This morning for the first time in - third time, rather, in 24 hours, House Republicans asked for a committee to be formed to resolve differences. The Senate, in a vote, said no.

But as the government shut down, the law's health care exchange opened for people to sign up for health insurance. It wasn't smooth sailing. There are long wait times being reported at call centers. Maryland and Minnesota had to delay their start time for several hours. Colorado's apparently won't be fully operational for a month. Let's bring in Rick Klein, ABC News political director.

And first, Rick, to the request from Republicans in the House today to have some sort of committee be formed to resolve these differences and the Senate voting no. Why would the Senate vote no?

RICK KLEIN: Because it was a ploy, and Senate Democrats are trying to call them out on it, as so much of this has been, the ping-pong of different legislation back and forth. The House ran out of options overnight, and that's why they went back to this conference committee.

The Senate's actually been asking for a conference committee for the whole budget, not just for a couple of months to buy time but to say, look, let's talk about all these issues. House Republicans have been the ones refusing to do that. So this is latest piece of the impasse, so they can't even agree on when and where to negotiate.

YOUNG: In other words, the Senate saying it's too late, and we don't believe, and there's no reasonf for them to believe that Republicans would ever, in the House, would ever drop the main request that some part of Obamacare be dismantled.

KLEIN: That's right, and we knew that we were at this loggerheads, and someone's going to have to give, and Senate Democrats very happy about the position they're in from a negotiating standpoint, even though we're now several hours into the government shutdown.

YOUNG: Well, you just said government shutdown. There's also a language dispute as to what to even call it.

KLEIN: That's right, and we've seen several Republican congressmen and women say it's not a government shutdown, it's a government showdown, or it's a temporary cessation in government operations, all kinds of euphemisms around this because the idea of a government shutdown of course has connotations that are politically polarizing.

And in fairness, it is not a shutdown of the government. It is a partial shutdown. There are some 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed and are not attending work today, a larger number who aren't being paid, at least in the immediate term. There are many government services that aren't happening, but there are plenty of essential government services: law enforcement services, air traffic controllers.

The basics - even members of Congress going to work, those things are still happening.

YOUNG: Well, you know, there's - it's hard to see the effects initially because as everyone has pointed out, a lot is still running. But we're hearing that down the road when the government really starts running out of spending money, which is what this is all about, as opposed to debt, money that's already been spent, which is the next big battle, when the spending money runs out, that's when it really hurts.

What are you hearing as to how long this might last?

KLEIN: I think it went from a feeling of this will only last hours to now days, maybe even longer. I talked to one Republican, a congressman who says, you know, Thursday range is the earliest that he could see it ending just because people on both sides need to feel the impact.

This is not being fought inside the halls of Congress anymore. It is being fought in the outside game. The way that this government shutdown, partial shutdown is being felt and then reflected back on lawmakers, the only thing that can change the politics around this. There's nothing inside the building that can happen anymore.

So as people feel this, as people react to this, probably rightfully with some degree of anger, who they blame for it and how members of Congress on both sides decide to internalize that and to take the lessons forward, that will be what resolves this ultimately.

YOUNG: Well, and there's some new polling this morning from Quinnipiac. What does it show?

KLEIN: It shows that Democrats may be deriving an electoral advantage from this. People much more likely to blame Republicans, and they're showing an edge for Democrats in the so-called generic ballot, the generic Democrat versus a generic Republican in 2014. Now there are lots of folks on both sides that are saying they're not thinking about politics; don't believe it. They are thinking about politics. That's really the main thing that they're thinking about at this stage.

And they're thinking about the implications, and you have more and more Republicans growing concerned that if they misplay this, if they overplay the hand in terms of trying to stop Obamacare as part of this process and having the effect of shutting down the government, that they run a lot of risk of being seen by voters as out of touch with the urgent needs of the American people.

YOUNG: And by the way, you use the phrase Obamacare. We've heard from some listeners saying that's a pejorative, why are you using that, but even President Obama himself is embracing that term for the Affordable Care Act. And by the way, that polling, 72 percent oppose Congress shutting down the government to block the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-five percent mainly blame Republicans for the current gridlock. Rick Klein, ABC News political director, thanks as always.

KLEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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  • Obset

    I’m OK with a govt shutdown. The part that’s still functioning is probably the govt we really need. Personally, I’d add NASA, NOAA, and some other govt agencies that are currently deemed “non-essential” because they really can only be done by govt. National Parks, though, for instance, ought to be spun off as charitable organizatoins, either individuallly or as a whole. I don’t feel so bad for govt employees because when the shutdown ends, and it will, they will receive a retroactive paycheck for days off. I’d take that deal.
    The problem is with Americans. We’re now two distinctly different societies occupying the same geography. Conservatives (Scouts, religious (mostly Christian), Fox, traditional, service organizations, non-gay rights, pro-life, racing, OK with fossil fuel energy sources and nuclear, football, etc.) vs. Liberals (seculars/atheists, progressive, pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, soccer, public education (for others, not themselves), climate change, solar/wind, opposed to any fossil fuel or nuclear power source, NPR). There’s just no compromise, because on either side that means sacrificing values and principles.
    Govt operations are caught in the middle. Conservatives are thrilled with any reduction of govt while liberals view govt as identical with America.

  • Obset

    The President is a jerk. It’s always been his way or the highway. Obamacare was not a bipartisan program. He turned down the bipartisan pieces that Dems and Repubs alike could and would have approved with hardly any opposition (drop pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps, etc.). He wanted to shove down the throats of Americans his view of re-forming healthcare that is government “guided” if not “controlled”. He’s imposed requirements on Catholic hospitals and Catholic employers that are morally objectionable. He accuses the Repubs in the House of “blackmailing” the country, but one can say the same for the Dem-controlled Senate. The blunt fact is the President Obama can’t LEAD. He is always CAMPAIGNING (the “Limbaugh Theorem”). Every inch of this governance crisis goes to the front door of the White House. (“Hello. Welcome to the White House. You want to see the President? Let me see if he’s here. Who am I? My name is Vladimir Putin. How can I help you?”)

    • PoliticsWatcher

      Projection. The Republicicans know they are jerks, so they project that onto Obama.

      • ClaraThomas

        Both sides are useless. Both are two sides of the same coin answering to their ruling class masters.

        This is a big show to keep your little minds occupied with this BS.

        This is about protecting and maintaining the STATUS QUO of the “Establishment” who own and control these politicians you see.

        Pull the curtain back and expose the real “money masters” and “manipulators”.

        “The real rulers in Washington are invisible, and exercise power from behind the scenes.”
        Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, 1952

        “The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” A letter written by FDR to Colonel Edward Mandel House, November 21st, l933

        “Fifty men have run America, and that’s a high figure.”- Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, in the July 26th, l936
        issue of The New York Times.

    • PoliticsWatcher

      Yeah, the Republicicans should really be whinging about bipartisanship right now. They’re the ones not putting the government shutdown up for a vote, because they know it would fail with a bipartisan majority.

      Republicicans are always hypocrites. They think the rules should only apply to others.

      • Obset

        There were votes. The Dems didn’t like the Repub version from the House and the House didn’t like the Dem version from the Senate. So…there…you…go.


      You need to get a mirror and look at yourself. Then read the history of the Bushes/Cheney wars including the Wall Street/banking bust. It is Obvious by your comment you need the Affordable Healthcare Act.

  • 1ofthelittlepeople

    I appreciated the story on the ferry operator at Fort Sumter – that’s the crux of the issue. A government shutdown doesn’t just harm people who hoped to visit National Park units (I’d hoped to see about 10-15 of them along the East Coast over the next month) but the local economies that rely on them – hotels, restaurants, concessioners, souvenir shops, and on and on. Consider a place like Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain NP whose businesses were crippled by recent floods. Tea Party Republicans have now completely paralyzed them. And for what? To brood over a loss that any reasonable third grader would have gotten over by now. Shameful. If not for the healthcare marketplace opening today, I would be completely embarrassed to be an American.


    I have a Affordable Healthcare Act question:
    Does the Affordable Healthcare Act cover a person if he or she has predetermined condition of Serial or Sociopathic Lying? If it does then there is hope for Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn, Eric Cantor, Peter King, Mitch (no) Mcconnell, John (two fingers) Boehner, Loue Gomhpert, Michele (the born again hypocrite) Bachmann, Jim (the failure) DeMint and last but not least their Speaker of the House leader Rush Limbaugh? This the main reason why I love the Affordable Healthcare Act. Please advise.

  • it_disqus

    Why do Democrats refuse to call the ACA socialism? Everyone knows that the only ones this government program helps is the sick and the poor. Everyone else will see their costs rise. That is the definition of socialism. Taking from those who produce and giving to those who don’t. A society can only withstand a certain level of socialism. When you combine that with the corrupt capitalism that is rampant in our government like that of Sen. Dianne Feinstein who is making millions off shady real estate deals selling federal assets with her husband and our country is in trouble. The working middle class can only support so much on either side of that coin.

  • ClaraThomas

    Blame either mainstream party folks.
    But in the end, blame yourself for falling for all their lies over the years sold to you by the mainstream media.
    Try some critical thinking people and not voting based on all the sound bytes you hear or lies you read.

    How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.
    -Adolf Hitler

    In the end, American get the government they deserve and tolerate.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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