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6 key turning points in the shutdown showdown

Updated: November 14, 2013 6:45AM



WASHINGTON — Senate Republican and Democratic leaders on Saturday seized control of negotiations to raise the debt limit by Thursday and fully reopen the federal government after talks between the White House and House Republicans stalled.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met Saturday and though there was no deal, Reid said talks were “extremely cordial.”

Democratic Senate leaders, including Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), huddled 75 minutes with President Barack Obama to map strategy in wake of the shifting ground.

Sunday marks Day 13 of the partial federal government shutdown with Thursday’s deadline to raise the debt limit or risk the nation’s first-ever default nearing. Here are six key turning points:

1. House GOP leaders force talks

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a brilliant move in turning Obama’s invitation for all 232 GOP House members to come to the White House on Thursday into a bargaining session in deed if not by name by having just 20 top party leaders attend. This well-played hand was pivotal in jump-starting talks.

2. Paul Ryan returns — in a big way

Until a few days ago, Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) was on his self-imposed back burner, keeping a low profile since the 2012 election, when he was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate. A Wall Street Journal column Wednesday by Ryan was a game changer notable for what it did not include — any mention of Obamacare.

“To break the deadlock, both sides should agree to commonsense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code,” Ryan wrote, returning to the national stage and changing the conversation. Ryan had the stature among conservatives to switch the focus from what was a failing tea party-inspired effort to derail Obama’s signature health care law to more attainable fiscal goals.

3. Cruz exits center stage

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was an architect of the strategy leading to the shutdown. It started Oct. 1 after Cruz and House members allied with the tea party movement that demanded defunding, delaying or otherwise sidelining the Affordable Care Act as the price for Democrats to pay to keep all of the federal government open past the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

But Cruz never had a plan of how to proceed once the shutdown started, and Obama did not back down.

4. Gutting Obamacare no longer main GOP goal

By the end of the week, House Republicans scaled down their ACA-related demands until by Wednesday — when Ryan’s column published — gutting Obamacare was off the table as the main GOP objective.

Cruz is continuing his crusade against Obamacare, but outside the confines of Congress.

5. Public blaming Republicans

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out Thursday showed Republicans, by an overwhelming margin, were getting the blame more than Obama for the debt-ceiling and shutdown debacles: 53 percent to 31 percent.

While 30 percent handed Obama a very negative rating, he doesn’t have to run for re-election. Some 24 percent had a favorable view of Republicans, and ratings for the tea party — 21 percent favorable — were at a low point. Those lousy poll numbers may be a reason Republicans are now working with the White House to at the least avoid a default Thursday.

Asked about this at the Friday briefing, Carney, a former Time magazine reporter, said, “Were I still a reporter covering Congress and Republicans in Congress, as I once did, it’s possible I could reach that conclusion.”

6. Senate takes charge

With the House failing to make a deal, the spotlight now is on the Senate.

“House Republicans have failed, utterly failed, in leadership, in terms of coming forward and coming up with a solution. Now we have to accept the responsibility and I hope we can rise to that,” Durbin said Saturday.

Outside the Senate chamber, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said, “The real conversation that matters now is the one that is taking place between McConnell and Reid.”

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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