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Friday, October 11, 2013

Signs of Progress as Debt Talks Continue

The North Lawn of the White House is seen in January 2012, in Washington. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

The North Lawn of the White House. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

This morning, Senate Democrats are meeting with President Obama to discuss a possible stopgap debt deal.

This came after a long evening meeting between President Obama and about 20 House Republicans.

The House members presented the President with an offer to pass a temporary extension of the debt ceiling in exchange for substantive negotiations on the budget.

This plan would not address the partial government shutdown that began last week.




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


I'm Meghna Chakrabarti, in for Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. In a couple of minutes, the partial government shutdown has been going on for almost two weeks, but what effect is it having on idealistic younger government workers?

YOUNG: But first all 46 Senate Republicans are meeting with President Obama to talk about a possible stopgap debt and spending deal. Last night House members were the White House guests, and the 20 House Republicans presented the president with an offer to pass a temporary extension of the debt ceiling in exchange for substantive negotiations on the budget.

Details about that House proposal are now trickling out. Let's bring in NPR digital politics editor Charlie Mahtesian. So Charlie, what are you hearing?

CHARLIE MAHTESIAN, BYLINE: Well, as you know, there are all kinds of rumors and reports and trial balloons flying around Capitol Hill at the moment, but what we know for certain is that House Republicans talked to the president yesterday and sent a proposal that would avoid the default and attempts to set up a kind of framework for talks that would ultimately end the government shutdown.

Now House Republicans have been talking about a six-week stopgap plan, one that wouldn't have any kind of big demands, such as defunding or repealing the president's health care plan, and that would lift the debt ceiling through November 22. Now, that isn't a plan that Senate Democrats embrace because they want an agreement to reopen the government, and so there's a lot in flux right now.

YOUNG: Yeah. We're hearing, though, that one of the things that may be happening, and again keep the flux word in mind, but is that there may be some exchange of cuts to entitlement programs in exchange for ending the shutdown.

MAHTESIAN: Right, that's - one of the reports that are out there would say that, and, you know, the key distinction would be, you know, one of those reports also shows that the shutdown would end and the debt ceiling would be...

YOUNG: Raised.

MAHTESIAN: Would be averted, as well. So the key distinction to make is whether the plan does both or one of them at the moment.

YOUNG: Well, we're hearing a lot from Republicans who are going to and fro in these meetings, but what about Democrats? One of our listeners is asking if a deal is cut, does that seem to legitimize the shutdown tactic, and will Democrats start howling?

MAHTESIAN: I think it's a great question. I think ultimately it depends on the terms of the deal because in a lot of ways in politics, nothing is really legitimized until it's validated at the polls, and at the moment public opinion is running pretty hard against the Republican Party. So, you know, so much is going to depend on what that deal would look like.

YOUNG: And you touched on the polls. They've been devastating for Republicans.

MAHTESIAN: Yeah, the latest poll last night, the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, really crystallized the problem that's facing Republicans at the moment because in short Republicans are losing the public relations part of the shutdown fight, and they're losing it pretty badly.

First they've learned that the public doesn't really dislike the president's health care plan enough that it wants the government shut down on account of it. And while the public's disgusted with both parties, that poll is just the latest to show that the Republican Party is really bearing the brunt of the blame for the current situation.

And even worse, the poll yesterday suggested that there's risk of long-term damage to the Republican brand because the public approval rating for the GOP is at a low in that poll's history, and that's something we saw earlier in the week, when Gallup reported that the favorability of the Republican Party was at the lowest point for either party since Gallup began asking the question 20 years ago. So that's a very scary backdrop for Republican officeholders.

YOUNG: Which might be why there seems to be a change in at least the public face of the party, maybe behind the scenes, as well. Paul Ryan has been emerging, leading a call for that short-term debt ceiling increase. Is it because he might - he's seen maybe to have better luck than Speaker Boehner? What's going on?

MAHTESIAN: Yeah, I think that's an important observation to make. Ryan has returned to the fray, and I think in some part, in some reason it's because he's not necessarily laden with the kind of baggage that Speaker Boehner carries into this fight. He's got some Tea Party credibility. He's got relationships with House conservatives and moderates and also with House Republican leadership.

So he's the kind of congressman who has the stature to be a key player in resolving the impasse, but at the same time, though, he's still confronting some of the same problems as Boehner because since he hasn't talked about defunding the Affordable Care Act, even Paul Ryan has run into resistance from some conservative elements who accuse him of abandoning the cause and capitulating to Democrats.

YOUNG: Well, Ted Cruz spoke before conservative voters today and urged House members to hold the line, but the line seems to be moving a little bit. We'll just keep an eye on it. Charlie Mahtesian, NPR's digital politics editor, Charlie, thanks.

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

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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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