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Friday Morning Political Mix

Posted: October 18, 2013

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Republicans fret, Democrats gloat at end of shutdown/debt crisis, and both refocus on coming battles over budget and the rollout of the nation's health care plan

Good morning.

As post-shutdown Washington struggles to squeeze itself into its ill-fitting "new normal" suit, this amazing, dispiriting, baffling week finally comes to a close with some same-old, same-old.

Republicans are refocusing on undermining Obamacare (which is doing a pretty good job of that on its own).

Democrats are taking gleeful potshots at Republican opponents who carried the banner for the failed shutdown/debt crisis strategy.

And the American people, particularly Republicans who say they see their ideals being undermined by incompetent Capitol Hill strategy, are left shaking their heads.

We'll start with the GOP's intraparty recriminations, which continue apace.

Here's what Matias Elliott, a Colorado Springs taxi driver, told the New York Times: "It's stupid that you shut down the economy just to get Obamacare off the list. Get Obama out of there, and get your candidate in there."

Noah Bierman and Tracy Jan report in the Boston Globe today that the motivated Tea Party base mainstream Republicans were happy to have in their corner in recent elections, has come to bite them in the behind.

They write: "The ironies are rich. Many in the mainstream GOP fed off the Tea Party movement's considerable passion in 2010 and 2012. Now those same Republicans face an environment in which, according to national polls, the entire party is suffering from a backlash over the fiscal showdown."

And over at Politico, Maggie Haberman and Anna Palmer find that some big GOP donors are lamenting the events of the past several months. They're also fretting, the reporters say, about the business community's diminishing influence and "rising clout of groups like the Senate Conservative Fund, which have run ads against incumbent Republican senators for not taking a hard enough line on the shutdown."

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have been licking their chops, relishing the aftermath of the debacle - and no one more than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In post-crisis/on-to-new-crisis Huffington Post interview, Reid called Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the standard bearer for the failed GOP defund-Obamacare-or-else strategy, a "laughingstock to everybody but him." And, Reid, not a doctor, diagnosed Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who proposed stripping congressional workers of employer-provided insurance subsidies , as "not playing with a full deck."

Democrats have also immediately gone after the guy who, with Reid, brokered a final-hours deal to end the shutdown and avert default - Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In emails to McConnell's home state Kentuckians, who will decide next year whether to return the incumbent to the Senate, Democrats had this to say: "McConnell's shutdown hurts Kentucky, creates disastrous political consequences for himself..."

In his own exit interview, McConnell, who faces a primary challenge, told the National Review that there will be no more shutdowns. "A government shutdown is off the table," he said. "We're not going to do it."

Cruz subsequently said, essentially, no guarantees.

Cruz also blocked the nomination of Democrat Tom Wheeler to Federal Communications Commission chair. Reuters reports that he "held up the vote over questions about the FCC's power to enforce disclosures of who sponsors political television advertising."

And, finally, the GOP push to cripple Obamacare moves to the House, where the Energy and Commerce Committee announced it would hold an Oct. 24 hearing on the health care system's disastrous launch.

Republican strategists are enthusiastically circulating accounts of the trouble-plagued program. Here's one from Wisconsin, where the state's insurance commissioner says fewer than 50 residents have signed up. Worth noting that Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker declined to have his state set up its own exchanges, choosing to rely instead on the national exchange. Next-door Minnesota, with its own state-based exchange program, has signed up more than 5,500, Gannett reports.

Republicans have also begun to highlight their weeks-long campaign to oust Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius, who has overseen Obamacare's rollout. Here's NPR's report.

To wrap up for the week, we'll let Chicago Sun Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet tell you how "Obama's a sore winner."

We'll have Edward Snowden tell you that, really, he took no secret documents with him to Russia.

And have NPR's Marilyn Geewax fill you in on how declining gas prices, below $3 a gallon in some parts of the country, are giving the economy a boost.

Happy weekend.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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