President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are increasing the pressure on each other to bend in their deadlock over the federal debt limit and the partial government shutdown. Even as they do, there are hints they might consider a brief truce.
VA chief: Shutdown could hit millions of vets
WASHINGTON (AP) -- About 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability compensation next month if the partial government shutdown continues into late October, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says. Some 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents will see pension payments stopped.
Shinseki is spelling out some of the dire consequences of a longer-term shutdown in testimony Wednesday for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The short-term consequences have meant that disability claims production has slowed by an average of about 1,400 per day since the shutdown began Oct. 1, and that has stalled the department's efforts to reduce the backlog of disability claims pending for longer than 125 days.
In all, more than $6 billion in payments would be halted with an extended shutdown.
"In some areas, like health care delivery, there are fewer adverse effects. In others, such as reducing the claims backlog, we have already seen a negative impact," Shinseki says in written testimony obtained by The Associated Press in advance of the hearing.
The House has passed legislation that would provide veterans disability, pension and other benefits in the event of a prolonged shutdown. But the White House has urged lawmakers not to take a piecemeal approach to continuing government services.
Shinseki plans to make that case as well, saying it's not the best solution for veterans. He'll note that even if the VA were fully funded, some services to veterans would suffer.
With the shutdown in its ninth day Wednesday and a potential economy-shaking federal default edging ever closer, neither side was showing signs of capitulating. Republicans were demanding talks on deficit reduction and Obama's 2010 health care law , while the president wanted Congress to first end the shutdown and extend the debt limit.
Amid the tough talk, though, were indications that both sides might be open to a short-term extension of the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit and a temporary end to the shutdown, giving them more time to resolve their disputes.
Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday he was not drawing "lines in the sand."
He sidestepped a question about whether he'd raise the debt limit and fund government for short periods by saying, "I'm not going to get into a whole lot of speculation."
Hours later, Obama used a White House news conference to say he "absolutely" would negotiate with Republicans on "every item in the budget" if Congress first sent him short-term measures halting the shutdown and the extending the debt limit.
"There's a crack there," Boehner said of the clash late Tuesday, though he cautioned against optimism.
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Katie Glueck, Politico.com
Cong. Chris Collins, (R-Clarence)
Pres. Obama said he would negotiate, but added: "I'm not going to do it until the more extreme parts of the Republican Party stop forcing John Boehner to issue threats about our economy. We can't make extortion routine as part of our democracy."
Two hours later, Boehner stood firm.
"What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us," Boehner said. "That's not the way our government works."
Republicans were continuing their tactic of pushing narrowly targeted bills through the House - over Democratic objections - that would restart popular parts of the government.
On Wednesday, they planned votes on a measure financing death benefits to families of fallen U.S. troops. Blaming the shutdown, the Pentagon has halted the $100,000 payments, usually made within three days of a death, a stoppage Boehner called "disgraceful."
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Americans are holding Republicans primarily responsible for the partial government shutdown as public esteem sinks for all players in the impasse, President Barack Obama among them, according to a new poll. It's a struggle with no heroes.
The Associated Press-GfK survey, out Wednesday says Republicans might end up taking the biggest hit in public opinion from the fiscal paralysis
But the situation is fluid nine days into the shutdown and there's plenty of disdain to go around.
- Fifty-two percent said Obama is not doing enough to cooperate with Republicans to end the shutdown; 63 percent say Republicans aren't doing enough to cooperate with him.
- More than 4 in 5 respondents felt no personal impact from the shutdown. For those who did, thwarted vacations to national parks, difficulty getting work done without federal contacts at their desks and hitches in government benefits were among the complaints.
-Sixty-eight percent said the shutdown is a major problem for the country, including majorities of Republicans (58 percent), Democrats (82 percent) and independents (57 percent).
- Republicans are split on just how much cooperation they want. Among those who do not back the tea party, fully 48 percent say their party should be doing more with Obama to find a solution. But only 15 percent of tea-party Republicans want that outreach. The vast majority of them say GOP leaders are doing what they should with the president, or should do even less with him.
- People seem conflicted or confused about the showdown over the debt limit. Six in 10 predict an economic crisis if the government's ability to borrow isn't renewed later this month with an increase in the debt limit - an expectation widely shared by economists. Yet only 30 percent say they support raising the limit; 46 percent were neutral on the question.
Overall, 62 percent mainly blamed Republicans for the shutdown. About half said Obama or the Democrats in Congress bear much responsibility.
The poll found that the tea party is more than a gang of malcontents in the political landscape, as its supporters in Congress have been portrayed by Democrats. Rather, it's a sizable - and divisive - force among Republicans. More than 4 in 10 Republicans identified with the tea party and were more apt than other Republicans to insist that their leaders hold firm in the standoff over reopening government and avoiding a default of the nation's debt in coming weeks.
Most Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job, the poll suggests, with 53 percent unhappy with his performance and 37 percent approving of it. Congress is scraping rock bottom, with a ghastly approval rating of 5 percent.
HOW THE POLL WAS CONDUCTED: The poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Oct. 3-7. It is based on online interviews of 1,227 adults who are members of GfK's nationally representative KnowledgePanel.
The original sample was drawn from a panel of respondents recruited via phone or mail survey methods. GfK provides Internet access to panel recruits who don't already have it. With a probability basis and coverage of people who otherwise couldn't access the Internet, online surveys using KnowledgePanel are nationally representative.
Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.
As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population's makeup by factors such as age, sex, race, education and phone usage.