Washington (CNN) - Amid new Republican offers to reopen the government and raise the debt limit in exchange for discussing cutting entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, President Barack Obama thanked the House Democratic caucus in a meeting at the White House, praising his legislative backers for holding firm against GOP demands to piecemeal funding for the government.
In a statement characterizing the meeting, the White House said Obama and House Democrats "reaffirmed their shared belief that we cannot let one faction of the Republicans in the House demand a ransom for doing its job and paying the bills we have already incurred."
The White House read out of the meeting portrayed a president solely focused on "fighting for working families" and gave no indication that Obama intends to cave to Republican demands, which have now evolved from "defunding" the president's signature health care law to slashing, in their minds, the true drivers of America's swelling debt.
Up to speed
Obamacare out, entitlements in: Republicans seem to be shifting the shutdown/debt ceiling battle line from an argument over Obamacare to one over entitlements.
After spending the first week of the shutdown trying to tie anything that would fund the government and end the impasse to President Barack Obama's signature health care law, the word "Obamacare" hasn't come up as much in recent days.
GOP dropping Obamacare in shutdown debate?
Republicans are saying they would be willing to talk about raising the nation’s borrowing authority so long as it includes a discussion on cutting entitlements, which they say are at the core of the country's debt problem.
At a news conference on Monday, Obama indicated Republicans could essentially set the agenda for budget negotiations, but only if Congress agrees first to a short-term spending plan to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, both the Senate and the House are moving forward without regard to the other. The House will vote to create a negotiating committee and on a bill to ensure “essential” federal workers don’t miss a paycheck. The Senate is expected to reject that and will instead debate a proposal to raise the debt ceiling, which is expected to go nowhere in the House.
Meet the new face of the House gym
In an interview on the Bill Press Show (and gleefully pointed out by a conservative group), Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, defends keeping the House gym open because it is where members can actually speak to each other. The House gym, he argues, could solve this crisis.
(He might have a point here. Remember what Eric Massa said Rahm Emanuel did in the House gym showers?) (refresher)
But things are getting pretty rough. Braley, who's running for the Senate in 2014, complains there’s no towel service (which we pointed out on Tuesday), but then he says, “We’re doin’ our own laundry down there.”
Finally, he says members pay $260 per year to belong to the gym. Quick back of-the-envelope math suggests members of Congress pay something less than $22 per month to belong to the gym that usually includes towel service and has a heated pool and whatnot.
Find a YMCA or church gym that’s that cheap.
Paul Ryan emerges
Remember Rep. Paul Ryan? The Republican budget guru who was on the losing ticket in the 2012 election? Right, him. Well, he’s still a member of Congress and still sits at the top of the Budget Committee. The budget wonk at the center of budget and spending battles in previous years broke his months-long silence Wednesday morning. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he took a measured tone, saying “both sides should agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs.”
Missing from his piece? The word "Obamacare."
That’s a different tact than what many of his tea party-aligned colleagues want, which is the dismantling of the health care law. And Sen. Ted Cruz’s speechwriter noticed the omission.
Remember Vice President Joe Biden? The 2012 Democratic vice presidential candidate who sat on the winning ticket? The guy who negotiated the last fiscal stalemates? Well, he’s still the vice president. But his silence is deafening.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is making sure Biden remains silent, CNN’s Gloria Borger reported. He’s made that point very clear, both inside and outside of the White House. As one administration official put it, “Reid is convinced he needs to stand his ground.”
159: The Dow’s dip on Tuesday; it rose 24 points Wednesday with the expected nomination of Janet Yellen to be chair of the Federal Reserve
.355: The interest rate of Treasury bill sold at auction Tuesday
300: The percentage increase of the rate of Treasury bills a week prior
2,000: Number of workers stranded at the Grand Canyon
27,000: Number of furloughed workers collecting unemployment insurance in the D.C. area
Time of Need
On Tuesday, we reported that the $100,000 government benefit to assist each family with burial and reclaiming the body is going unpaid because of the shutdown. Obama promised prompt action to pay benefits to survivors of military men and women killed in action.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president was "disturbed" to find out that it was not being paid and has directed the Pentagon and other officials to figure out a way to address the problem. Obama expects it "to be fixed today," Carney said.
Recipients in North Carolina who have not yet picked up their food stamps for October are out of luck. The state announced that it doesn’t have the money to provide the 20% of benefactors of the Women, Infants and Children food program who have yet to collect this month’s supplement, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Time of do-with-what-you-have
CIA agents responsible for undercover work, counterintelligence and intelligence gathering are being called back to work because of the “threat to the safety of human life.” Director John Brennan wrote in a memo to CIA employees: “This does not mean that we can recall all of our employees. We only have the ability to recall workers involved directly in our core missions.”
A small business that fights wildfires in the western United States has laid off a dozen workers since the shutdown. With 80% of its business coming from government contracts, Mark Masters, owner of Chloeta Fire, said he lost tens of thousands of dollars in the last week.