Maybe We'll Avoid Total Default After All

The Republicans have unfrozen: On the shutdown's 10th day, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) emerged Thursday morning to offer a compromise: A six-week debt ceiling lift if President Obama's willing to negotiate on long-term "pressing problems." The GOP's new plan stopped short, however, of offering to end the government shutdown. Boehner said this morning that the temporary raising of the debt ceiling would carry with it discussions about future spending — a new turn for the Republicans, whose compromise point was expected to be Obamacare.

With more than 60 percent of Americans blaming the GOP for the shutdown, the party could help restore their crumbling ratings by being the architects of even a short-term compromise.

"While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands," a White House official said in response to Boehner's new plan. "It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached."

Obama had reiterated yesterday that he was willing to negotiate with Republicans as long as he didn't "have a gun at my head" — i.e. the threat of default being leveraged against him in negotiations.

Signs of a Republican compromise began appearing late Wednesday. Congressional members began considering the possibility of a short-term spending bill to lift the debt ceiling and end the shutdown while parties resume negotiations on a permanent bill. Congress effectively has until Oct. 17 to pass some any proposed spending bill to open funding doors — otherwise, warns Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the government will be unable to borrow money and possibly go into default.

After the caucus, Democrats indicated that they're open to a similar short-term spending bill — if that's what it takes to end the shutdown and get the Republican lawmakers out of their "political box."

"All we want is a short-term CR [congressional resolution, or spending bill]," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

Pelosi said that a spending bill applicable for even a few weeks would suffice: It would at least allocate funding to the shut-down sections of government, effectively ending the shutdown. Closed agencies could get back up and running while lawmakers continued to debate a more permanent version of the spending bill.

“We’re not going to vote against America paying its bills,” said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

However, the Senate Democrats are still going to try to pass a 'clean' spending bill this week — that is, one that raises the borrowing limit without any extra policy additions. Six GOP votes are needed for the bill to pass, and one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has already said he favors the bill. This is also what Obama's going for.

"Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government," a White House official said.

Congressional leaders are also crossing party lines to speak behind closed doors, but as of yet, the meetings have been rather unproductive. Pelosi met with Boehner yesterday, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), but didn't make any headway. On Tuesday, Boehner also spoke with Obama twice, although no negotiations took place.

However, it doesn't appear likely that any negotiations for a permanent spending bill will happen until or unless this short-term compromise is reached.

“If the Republicans want to have a real discussion, they should open the government and take the threat of default off the table,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Meanwhile, the shutdown continues, and the latest causality might be your health: since the Center fro Disease Control is largely out of commission, it hasn't been monitoring this year's flu season, worrying some health experts that the country will be behind on the monitoring the flu's spread this season.

On the bright-side, there's now a website dedicated to helping you drunk dial the government so you can tell Boehner how much he's hurt you.