CNN's GUT CHECK | for October 23, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
IS THE U.S. LISTENING? Germany has information that the United States might have monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday. “We have immediately sent a question to our American partners and have asked for immediate and wide-ranging clarification," he said. “This would be a grave breach of trust. Such practices have to stop immediately.”
AWKWARD: President Barack Obama told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call Wednesday that the United States "is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
UNDER FIRE: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is under fire for the Obamacare website fiasco, with Republican opponents seeking to undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act by calling for Sebelius to be fired for the website problems. – Tom Cohen
NOT GOING ANYWHERE: Sebelius said on Tuesday that she has not talked about resigning with the president. “This is the most important work I've ever done in my life, delivering on an historic act, making sure that we have health security for the millions of Americans,” Sebelius said. “I've been working day in and day out to implement this law.”
OBAMA DIDN’T KNOW: President Barack Obama didn't know of problems with the Affordable Care Act's website - despite insurance companies' complaints and the site's crashing during a test run - until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation's health chief told CNN on Tuesday. – Greg Botelho
LIMBAUGH SMELLS BLOOD: “She (Sebelius) is an absolute disaster,” Rush Limbaugh said on his nationally syndicated radio show. "The level of lying willfully, knowingly lying, and now the best they can do is to say, ‘Well, Obama was so busy with the shutdown, he didn't know.’ Well, that's some president. That's some CEO. That's some chief executive. That's some messiah.”
REPUBLICANS WANT NUMBERS: “This is pretty basic information,” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said on "The Lead" with Jake Tapper. “I mean, McDonald's 20 years ago could tell you how many hamburgers it was selling every day. All we want to know in the Internet age is how many people tried to get on, how many were successful, what's their zip code, what was their level of insurance."
THE PROBLEM WITH GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS: “The ecosystem is filled with people who have great attorneys but not particularly good programmers,” Clay Johnson, President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign tech guru, in an interview with CNN. “So the jobs end up going to the people who understand the rules and regulations the best, not the people who can do the best job.”
MARKET WATCH: S&P 500 ends 4-day streak of record closes with a 0.5% loss. Dow drops 54 points as Nasdaq falls 0.6%.
What national sports league did Attorney General Eric Holder represent during his time at a Washington law firm?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Pelosi pushes back on extending health care enrollment
The top Democrat in the House is pushing back against calls to extend open enrollment in the new health care exchanges because of the massive technical problems plaguing HealthCare.gov. "I don't support that," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday morning, just hours after Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire appeared to be the first Democrat in Congress to join a growing number of her Republican colleagues in suggesting the March 31 deadline be pushed back. – Paul Steinhauser and Lisa Desjardins
Leading Drudge: Obama Loses Saudis
Upset at President Barack Obama's policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years. – Reuters
Leading HuffPo: NSA Boasting Baselessly
In the months since, intelligence officials, media outlets, and members of Congress from both parties all repeated versions of the claim that NSA surveillance has stopped more than 50 terrorist attacks. The figure has become a key talking point in the debate around the spying programs. But there's no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate. – Justin Elliott and Theodoric for Pro Publica
Leading Politico: Hill Dems frustrated by Obamacare rollout
House Democrats voiced growing frustration and anger with the broken Obamacare enrollment site on Wednesday as administration officials tried to reassure them that HealthCare.gov will be repaired. Democrats, who labored to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress in the first year of the Obama presidency, said they wanted the administration to share details of what’s wrong and when it will be fixed. – Jennifer Haberkorn and Jonathan Allen
Leading The New York Times: Obama’s Uncertain Path Amid Syria Bloodshed
President Obama’s effort to reconcile his conflicting impulses on Syria has been reflected in a far more contentious debate among his advisers than previously known. – Mark Mazzetti, Robert F. Worth and Michael R. Gordon
Leading CNN Money: To fix Obamacare website, blow it up, start over
Experts say the major problems with the Obamacare website can't reasonably be solved before the end of 2013, and the best fix would be to start over from scratch. “We don't even know where all of the problems lie, so how can we solve them?” Nish Bhalla, CEO of information-security firm Security Compass told CNN Money. “It's like a drive-by shooting: You're going fast and you might hit it, you might miss it. But you can't fix what you can't identify.” – Julianne Pepitone
The political bites of the day
- Republicans respond to CNN’s exclusive interview with Sebelius -
A SENATE GOP LEADERSHIP AIDE TO CNN: "Everyone was surprised by her statement that the President was unaware of the website's failures until a few days into it. They had been claiming that the Obamacare rollout was his top priority and that he was receiving regular updates, which was inaccurate. And he gave remarks on October 1 about how great it was and that people should go sign up. Assuming that he didn't know that the website didn't work, why did they let him make that speech when they knew it had crashed in testing? Did really no one recommend a delay to the President? It just seems odd."
- Pelosi unofficially moves up budget deadline -
MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI AT HER WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: "It is my hope - and I hope that it will be one that we all agree to in leadership of this Congress - that the budget conference could be finished by Thanksgiving. Why do we have to wait until January? By Thanksgiving to give certainty to consumers. We want to restore consumer confidence during the holiday season."
- Vote for me because McCain did NOT endorse me -
WYOMING SENATE CANDIDATE LIZ CHENEY IN A FUNDRAISING EMAIL TO SUPPORTERS: “Liberal Republican Senators like John McCain and Olympia Snowe have endorsed my opponent. We must be doing something right if these folks are fighting so hard to preserve the status quo.”
- Obamacare website becoming fodder for late night comics… -
JAY LENO ON HIS LATE NIGHT COMEDY SHOW: “The president said yesterday that, if it was taking too long when you are having trouble, you can bypass the website and enroll by mail. See, only the federal government could come up with a website that is slower than sending something by mail.”
JIMMY FALLON ON HIS LATE NIGHT COMEDY SHOW: “The website is all screwed up, it's got a bunch of glitches. And now people are getting a busy signal when they try to apply over the phone for Obamacare. So you can't use the internet. And you can't use the phone. And now fax machines are, like, 'Look who's come crawling back to Mr. Fax Machine.'"
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Lisa Desjardins (@AskLisaD)
NEW: Democrat @SenMarkPryor tells CNN he wants to extend Obamacare deadline, agrees with @SenatorShaheen (via @psteinhauserCNN )
Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker)
"Ted is on my health care plan," says Sen. Cruz's wife, Heidi: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/us/politics/a-wife-committed-to-cruzs-ideals-but-a-study-in-contrasts-to-him.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-thecaucus
Paul Begala (@PaulBegala)
When a Tea Party Republican is in trouble in Utah, that can't be a good sign for GOP. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sen-mike-lee-faces-growing-backlash-at-home-for-defunding-effort
Mike O'Brien (@mpoindc)
Just in case you thought the House GOP would retreat after the shutdown, Cantor says they "remain committed" to delaying indiv. mandate.
Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn)
Yes – Rep Jenkins – member of gop leadership -citing Conan and other late night talk show hosts making jokes about obamacare
Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin)
Curious what's driving decent polls for ACA. Shutdown? Medicaid expansion? People in state-run exchanges? http://on.msnbc.com/1h8ffzm
Rick Klein (@rickklein)
new catchphrase – refer you to HHS – would be more credible if HHS, you know, said anything. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/10/obama-allies-call-for-obamacare-transparency-the-note/
Rory Cooper (@rorycooper)
#WarOnWomen MT @whignewtons "Many younger women... will see triple-digit increases in their premiums under ObamaCare" http://bit.ly/1eJ0QHU
Josh Rogin (@joshrogin)
Exclusive: White House Official Fired for Tweeting Under Fake Name http://goo.gl/HgNAhD @natsecwonk
Dana Perino (@DanaPerino)
Saying a prayer of thanks that twitter wasn't a big deal when we were in the WH. Twitter troll at the NSC? Good grief.
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
Attorney General Eric Holder – despite being the first-ever sitting Cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress – has been with President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration in 2009.
And according to CNN's Evan Perez, sources close to the attorney general say he plans to stay in office until well into 2014, at the President's behest.
But leading the Department of Justice is just one of the many chapters in Holder's life.
Before becoming attorney general, Holder worked at Covington & Burling, a powerful Washington law firm. During that time, Holder maintained an ongoing relationship with the National Football League, including representing the league during the investigation of organizing a dog-fighting ring by then-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)
Congrats to Steve Liguori (@SteveL3877) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check Trivia question.
Tips or comments? Our inbox awaits: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone can sign up for Gut Check by emailing email@example.com
WANT TO SIGN UP?
Do you have a friend who wants to sign up for GUT CHECK or our new CNNPolitics Breaking News Alerts? Click here, log on and scroll down.