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First Thoughts: Welcome to shutdown

The government is shut down – forget your Panda cams, 800,000 people are worried about their jobs … Senate set to reject latest House attempt and does Boehner blink? … Anyone else hearing, “I got you, babe?” … Poll shows Americans don’t support House GOP strategy and shows GOP split ... Obama guarantees military will be paid during shutdown … David Wasserman looks at just how different House Republicans are now from the 90s. … The health-care exchanges open today – the six target groups and which states have set up exchanges.

*** Welcome to shutdown: For the first time in 17 years the government is shutdown. Some 800,000 federal workers are waking up this morning reporting to work just to turn in their Blackberries and find out that they will be going home not sure when to return because after a marathon session last night, there was no government funding breakthrough. On the eve of the health-care law’s exchanges opening, House Republicans tried everything possible to attach anti-health-care law provisions to temporary funding measures. And, as it has continued to do, the Democratic-controlled Senate swiftly rejected each and every one, including a last-ditch effort by the House GOP to appoint conferees to negotiate budget terms -- an hour before the government would shut down. House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring a clean continuing resolution with no health-care strings attached to the floor, something that would pass with a simple majority in the House.


Speaker of the House John Boehner pauses as he speaks to the media after 1:00 am, after the House of Representatives voted to send their funding bill with delays to the "Obamacare" health care act into a conference with the Senate, prompting a shutdown of portions of the U.S. government in Washington, October 1, 2013.

*** Groundhog Day – Senate to reject House GOP effort again: The Senate will report at 9:30 am ET and then is expected to formally reject the idea of going to conference without the House passing a temporary, six-week funding measure with no strings attached. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is going to keep rejecting anything that is not a clean CR. (Does anyone else hear, “I’ve got you, babe” playing in the background?) Does House Speaker John Boehner continue to try and create things Reid will reject or will he fold and move onto the debt ceiling? There is probably a majority of the majority of the GOP conference that would be FOR a short-term clean CR. But that hasn’t been the rule – 217 seems to be the House GOP rule. Because today is really about preparing for a shutdown, Congress does have SOME time – about half a day to minimize the shutdown’s damage (federal workers come in for four hours today). But for Boehner, it may be time to blink. Here’s why: House Republicans would be handcuffing themselves in trying to use the debt ceiling as leverage if the shutdown goes on too long. The public isn’t going to tolerate two long standoffs.

*** Public doesn’t support House GOP tactics: Speaking of the public not having tolerance for the GOP strategy, the White House is very excited about a poll out this morning from Quinnipiac, showing Americans don’t agree with Republicans’ strategy of trying to shut down the government to block implementation of the health-care law by a 72%-22% margin. (It’s not often the White House gets excited about a poll that shows Obama’s approval rating upside down). But here’s the key line (italics are ours): “Republicans support the federal government shutdown by a narrow 49-44 percent margin.” Democrats are against it 90-6 and so are three-in-four independents (74%-19%). The fact that the GOP is divided evenly on this shows the divide in the party and hammers home the point that it’s the party that’s united that wins these battles. On the debt ceiling, the poll finds that almost two-thirds (64-27%) are against blocking an increase in the debt limit as a way to stop the health-care law. BUT a majority of Republicans support doing just that by a 52%-39% margin, as opposed to 86% of Democrats and 62% of independents who do not. Democrats also lead on the congressional ballot by 9 points – 43%-34%, and while President Obama is at just 45% approval, congressional Republicans are at 17%.

*** Conference idea came from conservatives: By the way, where did this idea of going to conference suddenly come from? After all, this was something Democrats in the Senate have wanted to do for SIX MONTHS, and then suddenly with an hour to go until shutdown Republicans wanted to go to conference to negotiate on the six-week funding bill? Well, this was a conservative idea. We first heard of this strategy at 5 pm last night from House conservatives. It wasn’t even something leadership was talking about at the time. Then, five hours later, it became strategy. Yesterday the small group of conservatives who represent a large share of the grassroots were calling the shots. Do they call the shots today? Boehner has given them every opportunity and has showed them what doesn’t work. Today, do they trust Boehner to make the next decision?

*** Obama tests the bully pulpit: Meanwhile, President Obama flexed his bully pulpit muscles. At 12:01 am ET, the White House released a taped message from the commander-in-chief to the military and signed a bill guaranteeing the military would be paid during the shutdown. He has played an above-it-all strategy, and Democrats have shown a united front. Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to make Harry Reid the boogeyman, but no one knows/cares about Harry Reid outside Washington (and Nevada). One rule of negotiations is don’t negotiate with yourself. But that’s exactly what House Republicans have been doing.

*** “If you, if you could return, don't let it burn, don't let it fade”: We noted at the top that this is the first government shutdown in 17 years, since the Newt Gingrich-led House GOP walked out in 1996. The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman puts some data to the fact that this is a very different group of House Republicans from the 90s. He was tweeting (following him @Redistrict on Twitter) these great stats yesterday: In 2000, House Republicans represented 50.14% of all "urban" dwellers (Census defined) and 62.95% of all "rural" Americans. Today's House Republicans represent just 48.32% of all "urban" Americans but a massive 77.16% of all "rural" Americans, up 14.21%. In '95-'96, 79 of 236 House GOPers (33.5%) came from CDs Clinton won in '92. Today, just 17 of 232 (7.3%) come from CDs Obama won in '12. In '95, the average House GOP seat was 6.59% more Republican than the national average. Today, average GOP seat is 11.12% more GOP. In '95, fewer than a third of House GOPers (73/236) came from CDs R+10 or more. Today, more than half (122/232) do.

*** Blame gerrymandering and no institutional memory: And this on how much both parties’ members come from more partisan districts: In 2013, Democratic seats are more Democratic and Republican seats are more Republican. Wasserman’s take: Lesson: if gov't shuts down tomorrow, don't blame Obama/Boehner. Blame self-sorting & gerrymandering that has ground the House to a halt. And for those who ask, don’t Republicans remember what happened last time around? Well, not really because: Just 37 House Republicans (16%) were around for '95 shutdown. By contrast, 48% got here after G.W. Bush left office.

*** Health-care exchanges open today – the six target groups: Oh yeah, by the way, on any other day unquestionably the lead story across the country would be the health-care exchanges opening today. The exchanges will be live at HealthCare.gov. Anyone who does not have health insurance will for the first time, according to the White House, be able to sign up to buy it by comparing rates online in what are supposed to be similar to discount travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity. That’s the goal, anyway. Enrollment continues through March 31. Coverage begins Jan. 1 for those that sign up by Dec. 15. Over the week, we will roll out several things to watch. Today, we look at the six groups the Obama administration is targeting to sign up and which states have set up exchanges. The three critical groups:

1.  "Healthy & Young," (take good health for granted, tech-savvy, "low motivation to enroll", lead busy lives and tend to be procrastinators)

2. "Sick, Active & Worried" (mostly Gen X, baby boomers, active seekers of health care information, worried about costs, fear the unknown and have difficulty navigating the health care system)

3. "Passive & Unengaged" (mostly 49 and older, "lives for today," doesn't understand much about health insurance, dread making wrong decisions)

The other three: “Informed, Healthy & Educated,” “Mature & Secure,” “Vulnerable & Unengaged.” (Here’s the cached version of the government’s Power Point on this.)

*** Expecting slow sign ups, but seven million over a year: The administration says it expects somewhere between four and nine million people (out of 40 to 55 million uninsured) to sign up over a year and that the first few months will be slow. CBO said seven million. HHS Secretary Sebelius said on Nightly News last night that “success” will be seven million. The administration says it needs a 1:3 sign up ratio of “Healthy and Young” to others. They know most people don’t trust traditional sources of information, be it the media or legislators. So they are hoping as people slowly sign up, that friends and neighbors will tell friends and neighbors that it’s not that bad. But, like with the presidential campaign, they are also targeting mothers. Because who better to guilt their kids into getting health care than moms.

*** Which states are running their own exchanges: Various large states run by Republican governors, including Texas and Florida, will not be setting up exchanges, meaning an already taxed federal government, dealing with sequestration and threats of shutdowns, will have to step in and handle that volume on their website, staffing hotlines, and advertising. Here are the 17 states who are setting them up with links to each state’s program:

California: Covered California
Colorado: Connect for Health Colorado
Connecticut: Access Health CT
DC: DC Health Link
Hawaii: Hawaii Health Connector
Idaho: Your Health Idaho
Kentucky: kynect: Kentucky's Healthcare Connection
Maryland: Maryland Health Connection
Massachusetts: Health Connector
Minnesota: MNSure
New Mexico: BeWellNM
New York: New York State of Health
Oregon: Cover Oregon
Rhode Island: HealthSource RI
Utah: Avenue H
Vermont: Vermont Health Connect
Washington: Washington Healthplanfinder

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