Tags: Government Shutdown

Scalise: No Government Shutdown


The federal government will not run out of money until October 1, but new House majority whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) has already announced Republicans’ intention to surrender to President Obama and the Democrats on the issue of rising debt and continuous deficit spending.

Scalise, described by host Chris Wallace as a “tea-party favorite,” announced on Fox News Sunday that the GOP will not play spending hardball this fall, instead boasting that House Republicans have actually been more eager than the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass spending bills.

“The government runs out of money on October 1,” Wallace asked Scalise. “Will you support a continuing resolution to keep the government going at current levels; or are you willing, in an effort to cut spending, to risk another government shutdown?”

“We’re going to keep the government running at current levels,” Scalise responded. “In fact, we’ve passed a majority of the spending bills out of the House already. Not one of them’s been taken up by the Senate. But look, shouldn’t the Senate at least be able to agree a bill to fund our troops? That’s a bill that got over a hundred Democratic votes when it passed out of the House.”

“But no government shutdown?” Wallace asked.


The federal government experienced a partial shutdown of non-essential services in October 2013, which had no negative impact on the well-being of the vast majority of Americans and did not even hurt the finances of federal employees, who were all paid in full for the time they were (officially) not working. Nevertheless, the shutdown was given non-stop media coverage, which frightened conservatives. Republicans remain extremely sensitive to the mainstream media’s narrative that previous shutdowns and “fiscal cliff”–style showdowns severely damaged the GOP’s election prospects, though there is virtually no evidence that previous shutdowns damaged the economy and there seems to have been no polling in the last nine months to indicate whether voters even remember the 2013 shutdown, let alone consider it a front-burner issue.

Although the vocabulary of budgeting includes terms such as “continuing” and “current levels,” federal budgets are based on baseline budgeting, which assumes regular increases in spending and treats any reduction to the rate at which spending increases as a “cut.”

Tags: Deficit , Debt Ceiling , National Debt , Debt , Government Shutdown , Sunday Shows July 27 2014

Shutdown Strategies, Past and Future


On Tuesday, Rich wrote, “Did it take the shutdown to draw attention to Obamacare? I think it’s been pretty conclusively shown the last few weeks that the answer is ‘no.’”

Yesterday a regular reader wrote in, disagreeing, concluding:

What the shutdown did show was the GOP recognized in advance what a disaster Obamacare was, that it wasn’t ready to be launched, that average people were going to be hurt if the mandate was not delayed, etc. It also showed that the GOP members were willing to fight this monstrosity even though they were getting attacked for it and Obama wouldn’t even have any civil discussion about it (instead playing destructive politics all while he should have known what a disaster was about to hit).

We’re rapidly learning that during the shutdown fight, both sides within the GOP made erroneous assumptions about how the public would view the party’s actions.

A) The shutdown was not an effective way to build a critical mass of opposition to Obamacare, because the dominant issue became the shutdown, not Obamacare, and effectively created a news story that temporarily partially obscured the problems with Obamacare’s rollout.

Score a point for the shutdown skeptics. But also . . . 

B) The shutdown did little or no lasting damage to the image of Republicans and has quickly been forgotten.

So add a point in the column for the shutdown advocates. It wasn’t such a self-destructive strategy after all.

We did get another little bonus from this entire brouhaha: We now know that President Obama is the kind of man who would refuse to concede to his opponents’ demand for a delay in the implementation of Obamacare, even when his own political interests desperately needed a delay in the implementation of Obamacare. Chalk it up to stubbornness, stupidity, or an almost unimaginable obliviousness to the actual condition of the Obamacare rollout.

Now, the country faces some more key deadlines in a few months. On January 15, funding for the government runs out. On February 7, the government will hit the debt ceiling again. The heads of the Senate and House budget committees — Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Representative Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) — have been trying to hammer out a longer-term deal, but the outlook isn’t good.

Should the GOP make a big Obamacare-related demand of President Obama as the deadline approaches? Heck yes. They should make that demand and watch Obama refuse to accept, say, a delay of the individual mandate, even as his system continues to sputter and fail and grow less popular. Watch the Democrats’ unity splinter. Watch more and more Americans see Obama as a failed leader, (bitterly) clinging to an idea that is increasingly proving unworkable.

Republicans can make grandiose demands publicly, but they shouldn’t fool themselves about what they’re likely to get as concessions. Obama will never sign a repeal of his signature legislation, and he probably fears the chaos of Obamacare without the individual mandate more than the chaos of Obamacare with the individual mandate. Congressional Democrats may feel angry and betrayed, but they won’t abandon the president en masse until after the 2014 midterms.

Past experience shows that once the government shutdown begins, the dominant conversation to most apolitical Americans becomes, “Why can’t those losers in Washington do their jobs and pass a budget?” Eventually, a government shutdown becomes its own dominant issue, obscuring the original issue.

Republicans can and should push for the best concession they can get — but they should realize that government shutdowns are fundamentally unpopular, and they’ll always get a disproportionate share of the blame for them.

So an eleventh-hour deal that raises the debt limit through 2014, keeps next year’s spending at sequester levels, and makes Obama look stubborn and callous about people’s problems under Obamacare would be a pretty good win.

Tags: Government Shutdown , Obamacare , President Obama

Obama to America: Stop Focusing on the Bloggers


President Obama, today:

Now that the government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict.

I wonder if he includes this one:

Because the White House never attempts to profit from conflict, now does it?

Tags: Barack Obama , Government Shutdown

The ‘Patriotic Saviors’ Thought They Could Nudge Democrats. They Couldn’t.


Bob Costa:

The agreement would fund the government until January 15, extend the debt ceiling until February 7, and initiate a budget conference for fiscal negotiations later this year. The agreement would also keep sequestration intact.

Republicans could have gotten that deal before October 1, or at any point in the past two weeks.

Kirsten Soltis Anderson applies game theory to the current fight over Obamacare and funding the government, and describes four scenarios. In the second scenario, Democrats surrender and repeal or delay Obamacare; in scenario four, there’s a stalemate and the government is shut down and/or the debt ceiling is not raised.

The House did in fact pass a bill that defunded Obamacare while funding the rest of the government. They played that strategy. The bill went to the Senate and did not survive. We wound up in Scenario Four. Bill after bill, idea after idea, and we always wound up in the same place: Scenario Four.

And as Scenario Four has played out, it has become increasingly clear that it is not playing out as the Republican win that the Defund movement may have hoped for or predicted. I will give the Defund movement the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they honestly did believe that even initially winding up in Scenario Four would ultimately lead to Scenario Two.

I was one of those people and believed from the very beginning that Scenario Four would play out as badly for Republicans as is has. My firm was criticized by supporters of the Defund movement for alleging the very same thing prior to the shutdown.

Now, the game has been played out, we know the result, and we know who was right about the outcomes.

This is one of the reasons that it will be hard for many to follow Jonah’s advice, “Move on, everybody, it just doesn’t matter.” The GOP is going to face similar fights over Obamacare, the budget, spending, and debt in the months and years to come. The strategy the party uses in those fights to come does matter, a lot.

Some portion of Republicans did not support passing a continuing resolution to fund the government that included any funding for Obamacare. I referred to these folks on Twitter as “Defunders,” but I was assured that was pejorative, and urged to use the term “Patriotic Saviors.”

Fine. The “Patriotic Saviors” pursued a goal that absolutely required Democratic votes in the Senate and a presidential signature, or, alternatively, veto-proof majorities.

The “Patriotic Saviors” or anyone who wanted to enact a serious change to Obamacare, be it a delay in the individual mandate or repeal of the medical device tax,  needed five Democratic senators and a presidential signature, or 21 Democratic senators and 58 Democratic members of the House to join all Republicans in the House and Senate to overcome an Obama veto. You can scream and shout about the Washington Establishment, RINOs, “squishes”, or anything else, but in the end, you need a way to get those who are loudly, publicly, and adamantly opposed to your proposal to change their minds and do something they’ve sworn they will never do.

They tried their best. Senator Ted Cruz offered his quasi-filibuster that went on for hours and hours. They tried, and they tried, and they tried to build a wave of pressure from outside Washington to sway those Democratic senators and the president. 

They didn’t get them. It was always a long shot. As the shutdown began, it became clearer by the day that no Democratic senators could be dislodged from their pro-Obamacare positions, and the president wasn’t willing to give an inch on Obamacare, even as the exchange web sites face-planted on the first day and barely improved from that opening belly flop.

The past 15 days have been an exercise in self-inflicted polling wounds, as it was clear that the Republicans would always feel more pressure to A) reopen the government and B) avoid hitting the debt ceiling. The “Patriotic Saviors” insisted that this would end another way, that at some point Obama, Harry Reid, and congressional Democrats would flinch and put a better offer on the table.

They were wrong. I wish they had been right, but they were wrong.

Tags: Government Shutdown , Obamacare , Ted Cruz

Washington’s More Worried About De Fault Instead of Default


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama Cares About Default! He Insists Everything Is Default of De GOP.

So here’s the problem . . . 

(Okay, here’s one of the problems. We have a lot of problems.)

Quite a few folks on the Right seemed to think that the approach of a government shutdown would increase their leverage; that faced with a shutdown, President Obama would make concessions he otherwise never would — i.e., a full repeal of Obamacare or a delay in the individual mandate.

The problem is that Obama thinks he “wins” government shutdowns — and in the sense that the public blames Republicans more than him and Congressional Democrats, he’s right. (Less damage is not the same as no damage. See below.) All evidence suggests most congressional Democrats — including red state Democrats! — feel the same way. Check out the Senate: Party line vote, party line vote, party line vote. Right now, there’s not a single Democrat in Congress who fears he’s going to lose his seat over the government shutdown OR Obamacare. They may be whistling past the graveyard, but that’s where it stands.

It’s a similar dynamic with the debt ceiling — the Democrats are totally convinced they “win” if no deal is reached. John Podhoretz is incredulous that anyone would think Obama wants a default*, asking, “What sitting president wants to preside over a fiscal panic?”


Yes, the federal government could avoid default for a while by moving money around and using all incoming tax money to pay creditors first, and then maybe having enough to pay for, say, Social Security. The government takes in about $10.8 billion per day and spends about $13.3 billion per day. The U.S. Treasury has about $30 billion in cash on hand.

The problem is that after a few days or weeks of moving money around, you end up not having money to pay for something important:

On Oct. 23, Treasury has to make $12 billion in Social Security payments, and then on Oct. 25 it must pay another $3 billion in federal salaries. Another $6 billion in debt interest payments is due on Oct. 31. If there’s still no deal by then — and Treasury by some miracle has any cash left — the real whammy will hit on Nov. 1. That’s when Treasury has to make a total payment of $57 billion to Social Security, Medicare, the military, and other income-support payments. Game over.

And for what it’s worth, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggests they physically don’t have the ability to only write some checks and not others:

We write roughly 80 million checks a month. The systems are automated to pay because for 224 years, the policy of Congress and every president has been we pay our bills. You cannot go into those systems and easily make them pay some things and not other things. They weren’t designed that way because it was never the policy of this government to be in the position that we would have to be in if we couldn’t pay all our bills.

The point is, we can’t count on Jack Lew’s budgetary juggling to stave off a default for very long. And the consequences of default are bad: It becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money, almost certainly a downgraded national credit rating, probably a dip back into recession, and possibly something resembling a run on the banks. Oh, and the markets will take a dive and your 401(k) will take a hit after its recent happy run.

As I noted to Podhoretz, the president probably doesn’t really want a default . . . but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to do much to avoid one. He’s probably confident he’ll win the blame game afterwards — he has good reason to think that! — and this scenario would undoubtedly give him a clear, concise message from here until November 2014: “House Republicans destroyed the economy.” In fact, from November 1, 2013, until January 20, 2017, President Obama would cite his built-in excuse: the U.S. government’s failure to pay money it owes did irrevocable damage to the confidence of investors around the globe, an obstacle that note even his enlightened, innovative, unprecedented, wise and munificent policies could overcome.

This is what happens when you have a bunch of elected leaders who are so convinced they can win a crisis that they aren’t that interested in preventing the crisis. Or that they seem to welcome crises, believing they’re all opportunities in disguise.

This ultimately all can be laid at the feet of the mainstream media, or whatever you like to call it these days: The New York Times, the Associated Press, Time, the network news crews, and so on. They’ve created a political environment of near-zero accountability.

We live in an atmosphere where Democrats aren’t worried about any of their decisions backfiring, because they know the mainstream coverage will always give them the better of the doubt, hammer their opponents, and gloss over or downplay their worst moments. The flip side of the coin is a “Tea Party caucus” (for lack of a better term) that has absolutely no fear of getting bad press — because they feel/suspect/know they’ll get negative coverage no matter what they do. Most of these guys shrug at the Morning Joe panel unanimously denouncing them as fools and unhinged extremists, because they think the only way that panel won’t denounce them as fools and extremists is to stop being conservatives. A lot of those House members feel they might as well vote their principles and draw the hardest line possible — because if you’re going to get bad coverage, you might as well get bad coverage while fighting for a good cause.

This is bad for a lot of reasons, but high among them is that almost no one in Washington has any ability to persuade anyone else in Washington. Republicans can’t persuade the media that they have a point, the media can’t persuade Republicans that they’re taking an awful risk with the debt ceiling, Democrats can’t persuade anyone and they won’t listen to anyone warning them that they’re making a mistake — i.e., when the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee looks at the implementation of Obamacare in April and declares, “I just see a huge train wreck coming down.”

Tags: Government Shutdown , Barack Obama , Debt Ceiling

Desperately Seeking Republican Unity


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Desperately Seeking Republican Unity

Radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt and Representative Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) really got into it earlier this week on Hugh’s program. Charlie Dent is shopping a deal where they fund the government for six months, repeal the medical-device tax, and make up for the lost revenues of the medical-device tax through a “a pension-smoothing provision” in Dent’s words.

Hugh’s objection isn’t that Dent is offering an alternative plan; it’s that he went on CNN and criticized most of the rest of the House Republicans. Pardon the long excerpt, but I think it’s required to accurately depict the context and tone:

CD: No, I have said, well, I have not really blasted leadership. What I said is that I believe the votes are there to pass a clean continuing resolution.

HH: But that, to me, undercuts the Republicans in such a profound way, because then my friends in the media, and Jake Tapper was on last hour, and I have them all on this show, they all point to Charlie Dent and Peter, and they say there are enough votes to pass the clean CR, and that therefore, the Republicans are obstructionists. And by the way, you’re a center-right guy. I read your whole bio.

CD: Yeah.

HH: Center-right guy from a center-right district in a center-right state. You know, it’s a great line. But aren’t you destroying the Republican bargaining position by empowering the media to parrot the President’s line?

CD: Well you know, I mean, I think, Hugh, there’s a certain unfairness here. When there are some members, I’ve said repeatedly, there are 180-200 members of the House Republican conference who have an affirmative sense of governance, who really want to get things done, who are going to play up the hard votes to enact the must-pass pieces of legislation. They’re going to be there. We have a few dozen folks who don’t share that same affirmative sense of governance. And the reality of the situation in the House is we don’t have 218 votes to pass the debt limit, or frankly the continuing resolution, on our own. We simply don’t, and we have to accept that reality. And there’s going to be, require some kind of a bipartisan vote to get this done out of the House. That’s all I’m saying.

HH: But now, I actually, I think, and this is said with respect.

CD: Yeah.

HH: I’m not yelling at you.

CD: Yeah.

HH: I think that you and Congressman King, who’s been a guest on this show, are in fact wrecking the opportunity to reach a constructive conclusion by undercutting the Speaker and empowering the media to beat him up. And I think that the place to have those conversations is in the conference, not on CNN.

Drew M., over at Ace of Spades, makes these points about the Tea Party, the Establishment, and a conflict that can no longer be ignored:

I have no problem with acknowledging the failures and shortcomings of this new brand of political player but let’s not pretend the entrenched professionals have been racking up win upon win for years. The track record of the insurgents may be spotty but wins like the House in 2010, replacing Bob Bennett with Mike Lee in Utah, Ron Johnson win in Wisconsin, Rand Paul over Mitch McConnell’s choice in Kentucky, Cruz over Dewhurst in Texas, and yes even Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist in Florida.

While I like the idea of holding Republicans to feet to the fire, let’s be smart about it.

Former Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois decided that Senator Mark Kirk, also of Illinois, needs to be primaried b/c he called for a clean CR. Now Walsh is a former Congressman because he’s, well, an idiot.

Here’s where a little discernment would go a long way for conservatives. Kirk is a moderate Republican. He’s also holding a Senate seat in ILLINOIS. That’s practically theft. Let’s not make him the problem, ok?

People like Lindsey Graham, a moderate in a deep red state are a problem. A big spender like Thad Cochran from Mississippi (a conservative but poor state that loves federal money) is a problem.

If Kirk needs to talk liberal on some issues, fine. Did I mention ILLINOIS?

What we can’t have is guys like Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both from Tennessee starting or joining Senate “gangs” that always move things left and cut the legs out from conservatives.

We need our “mavericks” to emulate what “moderate” and red state Democrats do . . . talk a big game back home but when push comes to shove, shut up and vote the right way.

And NEVER join a “gang”. To me, that’s open warfare and a primary is a reasonable reaction no matter the state.

That’s the long-term issue. The short-term issue is what, if anything, the Republican party can get out from this current stalemate.

Fill in the blanks:

I would vote for a bill to raise the debt ceiling another trillion or so (enough for one, perhaps two years under current spending rates) in exchange for __________.

I would vote for a Continuing Resolution that would reopen the government at pre-shutdown, Sequester-era spending levels in exchange for _______.

Earlier this week, I said that Republicans need to know what their own “red lines” are.

I suppose the answer to either might be, “a repeal of Obamacare!” But the Senate Democrats will never vote for that, and President Obama will never sign that. Ted Cruz’s quasi-filibuster was fine for putting Senate Democrats on the spot, but ultimately, every Democrat decided their fates are tied to Obamacare’s. Nobody on their side is giving up on it now.

The next answer might be, “a year’s delay of the individual mandate!” But President Obama and the leaders of the Democrats aren’t that dumb. If you delay the mandate a year, the young, healthy people won’t buy insurance. (Even with it, they still might not buy the insurance. The penalty fee is $95 or 1 percent of a person’s income, vs. on average at least $100 per month (and that’s presuming you qualify for subsidies). For a young person making $30,000, that’s a $300 penalty fee vs. $1200 for the insurance, and we’re not even getting into the issues of high deductibles and co-pays.) If the only people who sign up are old people with high health-care costs, and the young people with low health-care costs don’t sign up and start paying premiums, the insurance companies will enter the “death spiral” –too much money going out, not enough money coming in.

It was here that Republicans needed a Plan C. What was another concession that they saw as worth raising the debt ceiling or keeping the government open? A few possibilities:

  1. A repeal of the medical-device manufacturer tax.
  2. Require all members of Congress and their staff to purchase insurance through the exchanges.
  3. Something else.

The rest of us, outside the House Republican Conference, don’t need to know what the “red line” is. (Oh, who are we kidding, Bob Costa and Jonathan Strong will probably know it first.) But the House Republicans need to know what their minimum threshold for a deal is, and they need to unite on it. John Boehner may or may not have one. It’s probably different from what Senator Ted Cruz would want, and different from what Charlie Dent and Peter King would want, and different from what Michele Bachmann and Scott Garrett would want.

Tags: John Boehner , Government Shutdown , Debt Ceiling

House: We Authorized the Death Gratuity. Why Won’t They Pay It?


I just chatted with a House aide who argues that the “death gratuity” — the $100,000 payment to families of U.S. servicemen — was originally covered by legislation passed by both Houses and signed into law, and that there is no reason for the Pentagon to claim they don’t have the funds or the authority to pay out those benefits.

“In the last week of September, the Department of Defense’s Comptroller Robert Hale warned that the death gratuity and other benefits would be affected by shutdown,” this aide said. “Following week, Congress passed, and the President signed the Pay Our Military Act which included authorization for all military benefits. Everyone felt relieved, believing military pay and benefits are protected.”

Then Thursday and Friday of last week, the aide said he and other Republican colleagues started to hear whispers from third parties that there was a problem with death gratuity. The House wasn’t notified by the Obama administration or made aware that Department of Defense felt they lacked authorization to pay that benefit.

On Friday, in response to the rumors, Representative Joe Wilson sent this letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking whether there was a problem with paying the death gratuity or other benefits, and whether this or any other benefits required specific authorizations from Congress.

There was never a response from Obama Administration or DoD to the congressional inquiry.

“Tuesday morning, we learn on NBC’s Today Show — not from DoD — that there are four KIAs coming home, and their families will not receive the death gratuity,” the aide said. “The only warning we had was from George Little on Twitter.

He’s referring to this tweet “Congress needs to act to end ‪#shutdown. Awful that we do not currently have authority to pay death gratuities for families of fallen heroes.”

The Wilson letter to Hagel specifically asked about the death gratuity, as well as benefits for covering burial costs.

“What legal justifications are Pentagon lawyers using to say they did not have authorization to pay the death gratuity?” this aide asks. “ What other benefits will DoD retroactively decide they cannot pay? Will we have to vote for every benefit, despite the broad authorization that we gave them in the Pay Our Military Act?”

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill specifically stating that the Pentagon is authorized to pay out the death gratuity.

“I don’t know why DoD felt like they needed authorization for this single benefit out of 60 or so, but even my cynical brain is unwilling to contemplate the possibility that the Obama administration’s sudden interest in fundamentalist interpretations of the law is related to heroes coming home to us in a box,” the aide concludes.

UPDATE: More from David French in the Corner:

Through a rather simple, good-faith drafting error, Congress gave the secretary of defense room to maneuver on the delivery of benefits to military families, and the Department of Defense’s civilian masters have made an incredible choice, one that no line unit in the military would ever make if it had control over funding for its own soldiers and their families: to exclude death benefits from the “pay and allowances” appropriated by Congress. There are two simple fixes. The simplest is for the Department of Defense to interpret the statute consistent with Congress’s intent and fund military benefits. The second is to pass correcting any ambiguity in the Pay Our Military Act. If the DOD doesn’t act, the House will, and surely the Senate will follow. Or will you, Senator Reid?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Today the House of Representatives voted, 425–0, to authorize the expenditure of funds for the death gratuity.

Tags: Government Shutdown , Chuck Hagel , Joe Wilson , Pentagon

Why Republicans Aren’t Worried About PPP’s Latest Survey


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Apparently No One’s Really Persuaded by PPP’s Latest Survey

So, how worried should Republicans be about losing the House? A PPP poll suggested they should, surveying GOP districts, asking a series of questions prefaced with the claim that the incumbent House Republican is responsible for the shutdown, and finding (surprise!) those incumbents in bad shape against generic Democrats.

The Huffington Post’s Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy:

The drop in congressional approval measured by Gallup will likely lead to drops in the “reelect” numbers for incumbent Republicans. However, skepticism is in order for the MoveOn/PPP results mostly because they were conducted by a Democratic pollster and sponsored by a liberal advocacy group. Our analyses have shown that polls with partisan sponsorship typically exhibit a bias of 3 to 4 percentage points in favor of their sponsor on vote preference questions.

Frequent PPP critic Nate Cohn noted on Monday that the “generic” question (which pits incumbents against an unnamed challenger) overlooks the importance of viable challengers: “Democrats aren’t yet poised to mount serious challenges to a clear majority of the Republicans running on competitive turf, let alone actually win. So you should probably take this morning’s PPP poll with an additional grain of salt: it’s about how House Republicans would fare against a ‘generic’ Democrat, not the mediocre one they’ll face in 2014.”

Stuart Rothenberg just rips PPP to shreds:

PPP isn’t your typical polling firm. Its surveys often are intended to boost Democratic recruiting, fundraising or prospects. In this case, the “polls” were almost certainly commissioned to create a narrative about the political repercussions of the shutdown and the nature of the midterms.

It’s no coincidence, then, that the PPP memo accompanying the results, written by Jim Williams, observes, “The surveys challenge the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for Democrats.”

Not surprisingly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out multiple fundraising emails in the hours after reports of the PPP polls surfaced, and dozens of Democratic candidates and liberal groups did the same.

That’s the standard modus operandi these days on both the right and the left: have a sympathetic media organization or polling firm assert some alleged finding, and then have fellow travelers cite the initial report to try to raise cash or create momentum. It is becoming (yawn — excuse me) a little trite.

Rothenberg continues:

Of course, the “polls” did not include head-to-head ballot tests of likely nominees (even though the surveys could have included candidate names in many contests), but instead relied on a messy question that was part “re-elect” and part “generic ballot.” The results are of little or no use because that is not the choice voters will face on Election Day.

Moreover, at least five of the 17 Republicans who are “losing” either have no serious opposition or have less-than-top-tier opponents at this point: Steve King (Iowa’s 4th District), Andy Barr (Kentucky’s 6th), Kerry Bentivolio (Michigan’s 11th), Patrick Meehan (Pennsylvania’s 7th) and Sean P. Duffy (Wisconsin’s 7th). Bentivolio may not survive a GOP primary.

Each PPP survey asked seven substantive questions and four demographic ones. Some of the questions were loaded, and as I have noted previously in dissecting PPP polls, the “more likely/less likely” question is a horrible one to use in surveys because it tends to measure the underlying attitude rather than gather useful information about an issue’s eventual importance as a vote cue.

Even a writer at Daily Kos had to note:

Informed ballots such as these, though, must always be viewed with caution. They represent an ideal environment where one side is able to widely disseminate its preferred message, without pushback or interference from the other side. In other words, a scenario nothing like what you encounter in the real world. That said, though, these polls show that hammering Republicans over the shutdown has the potential to be effective across a very diverse array of districts. And while 3 points might not sound like a lot, seven Republicans and nine Democrats won House races by less than that amount in 2012.

It’s also worth noting that, like informed ballots, polling against generic candidates represents a sort of idealized situation as well. In some races, Democrats may not land serious challengers; in others, Democratic candidates may stumble or fail to gain traction. On the flipside, sometimes an actual candidate will perform better than a generic unnamed option because of their strong personal attributes. Early on, when you’re more than a year out from Election Day, generic ballots can serve as a helpful metric, but reality will ultimately diverge in most cases.

Keep in mind, the majority party in the House when the country is angry at Washington, with a slow economy, is going to face some dangers.

Tags: Polling , Republicans , Government Shutdown

The Worst Consequence of the Government Shutdown


As noted below, there are a lot of inane and overhyped consequences of the government shutdown: the limited menu at the White House mess, the buffet spread at the weekly congressional caucus meetings, the furloughed Capitol Hill elevator operators.

But there are also consequences that leave you shaking with anger.

Over the weekend, the Department of Defense announced the death of four soldiers in Zhari District, Afghanistan, “of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.” Separately, a Marine was killed while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The financial benefit known as the “death gratuity” — roughly $100,000, designed to help the family until survivor’s benefits begin — is on hold until the government shutdown is resolved.

In all, “Seventeen servicemembers have died since the government shut down Oct. 1, a senior defense official said, including six in Afghanistan. None of the families of the 17 received the death gratuity.”

Congress and the president approved military pay during the shutdown, and Secretary Hagel brought back the civilian Department of Defense workers back, deeming them essential to military operations. But the Pentagon would need separate authorization and funding for the death gratuity.

Tags: Government Shutdown

The Horror: A Scaled-Back Menu at the White House Mess!


Oh, how they suffer!

The staff of 90 that normally tends to the president’s residence has been cut to 15. In the West Wing, only a scaled-back menu is available at the White House mess.

Vice President Joe Biden gets to keep the single staffer who works at his Naval Observatory residence, but his 24-person White House team has been cut in half.

The term “White House mess” does not refer to any particular member of the administration or policy, but instead refers to “three small dining rooms located in the basement of the White House next door to the Situation Room. This exclusive dining facility is run by the US Navy.”

It just isn’t the same these days.

Tags: Government Shutdown

The Sadism of Harry Reid


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Sadism of Harry Reid

sadism: (noun) enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain


The good news is that those civilian Department of Defense workers I mentioned in Friday’s Jolt will go back to work soon.

On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution 407-0 to ensure back pay for federal workers furloughed because of the shutdown. Those federal workers still have the problem of no paycheck coming until after the shutdown ends – but if and when this bill passes, they can at least take assurance that they’ll get paid for the weeks they’ve been furloughed.*

This is quite the revealing moment, as the leadership of the Democratic party and federal government workers are supposed to be the best of friends — symbiotic, really. But when the moment comes to help out federal workers, Harry Reid drags his feet. The only plausible motivation is that the Democrats’ strategy for “winning” the shutdown fight requires maximizing the pain to as many Americans as possible, so that the pressure is maximized on the GOP opposition to accept a deal that amounts to unconditional surrender.

Thus, we have a government shutdown where the federal Amber Alert site is down, but Michelle Obama’s “Drink Water” site remains up.  (The volunteer site,, and are still up.) Now wonder this morning people are saying the president lives in “the Spite House.”

I hope those federal workers are paying attention.

Harry Reid drags his feet on alleviating the financial anxiety of hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers, and he’s refused to bring to the floor seven continuing resolutions, all passed by the House, all passed by wide and fairly bipartisan majorities (all or almost all of the Republicans, and another 20 or so House Democrats):

  1. Authorizing military chaplains to do their duties during the shutdown;
  2. Continuing appropriations for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for fiscal year 2014 (food stamps).
  3. Continuing appropriations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 
  4. Continuing appropriations for veterans benefits.
  5. Continuing appropriations for the National Institutes of Health.
  6. Continuing appropriations for National Park Service operations, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 
  7. Continuing appropriations of local funds of the District of Columbia.

Not a single one of those resolutions says anything about Obamacare.

We know why Harry Reid isn’t bringing them to the floor. If he did, they would pass. Senate Democrats wouldn’t be able to vote “no” on any of those priorities without providing fodder for attack ads next fall (maybe the District of Columbia). And if they pass, the pain of the shutdown is mitigated in part.

Harry Reid doesn’t want to minimize the pain of the shutdown. He wants to maximize it.

* I can hear the complaints now: “Jim, why should these federal workers get paid if they’re not working?” If you want to eliminate their jobs, then eliminate their jobs. But these workers have been stuck in a holding pattern: ‘Stop going to work until further notice, and maybe you’ll get paid for the days or weeks you’re not there.’ Most workers and their families could get by for a couple days or a week without pay, but how many weeks could you or your household go by with no money coming in?

These workers didn’t walk off the job. They didn’t quit. This isn’t their fault, but they’re the ones feeling the most pain. In the District of Columbia and Virginia, a worker has to be out of work for a week before filing for unemployment benefits, and payments may not begin for several weeks. And if a furloughed federal worker does collect unemployment benefits, they have to pay them back once they receive any back pay. In other words, there’s a good chance that the unemployment benefit check will arrive just as the check for the back pay arrives. 

Tags: Harry Reid , Government Shutdown

Good News! Harry Reid Passed the ‘National Chess Week’ Resolution!


This weekend, you’ll hear a lot of senators, particularly Democratic senators allied with Harry Reid, insist they’re doing everything possible to end the government shutdown.

They were in session yesterday, until shortly after 5 p.m…. but did not hold any votes. Around midday Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution 407-0 to ensure back pay for federal workers furloughed because of the shutdown. 

The Senate is not slated to resume work until 2 p.m. Monday; at that time in the afternoon, they will begin their “morning business” (really) and not hold any votes until 5 p.m. 

On Friday, the Senate found time to pass a resolution “Designating the week of October 7 through 13, 2013, as “National Chess Week” to enhance awareness and encourage students and adults to engage in a game known to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

Tags: Harry Reid , Senate Democrats , Government Shutdown

Senator McConnell: White House Meeting ‘Unproductive’


I interviewed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night’s Kudlow Report. When I asked him about that day’s shutdown meeting at the White House, McConnell described it as “unproductive.” Here’s a report on the interview by CNBC desk producer Elizabeth Schulze, and the video, too:

Washington is still far from resolving its differences over the fight to reopen the U.S. government.

That’s according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an interview on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report” following a meeting at the White House Wednesday night.

“It was cordial but unproductive,” McConnell said. “The President continues to maintain privately the position that he has had publicly, which is he doesn’t want to negotiate about the continuing resolution to operate the government or over raising the debt ceiling.”

After a two-hour meeting with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. McConnell offered no timeline for Congress to pass legislation to end the government shutdown.

“Obama can’t get his way exactly the way he likes it,” McConnell said. “The American people expect us to come together and figure out how to solve this problem and sooner or later, we’re going to do that.”

“The shutdown will end,” he added. “Nobody is in favor of a government shutdown, but these are important principles that we are fighting for, for the American people. We obviously want to continue the operation of the government, but we want to keep it within constraints with the Budget Control Act.”

McConnell insisted on maintaining spending levels under the Budget Control Act, the 2011 law which created sequestration. Tax increases to reopen the government, he said, are off the table.

“We don’t want to walk away from the spending reductions we have already promised the American people for the next two years,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the Bush tax cuts are now permanent law. We don’t want to walk away from the permanent tax relief that we achieved New Year’s Eve. “

McConnell shifted the debate to the debt ceiling, saying “America is not going to default on its debts.”

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that the government’s flexibility to continue to fund itself without additional debt will end around Oct. 17. 

“Our view is it’s time to talk to eliminate the government shutdown, to find out what conditions need to be attached to raise the debt ceiling so the full faith and credit of the United States continues to be honored,” McConnell said. “But we also need to do something about this enormous debt that has been accumulated during the Obama years.”

In response to President Obama’s insistence on a “clean” budget proposal in an interview on CNBC earlier Wednesday, McConnell said the President’s position is “unacceptable.”

“The President’s position so far is that he wants it clean no matter what,” McConnell said. “I think that’s an unacceptable position for Senate and House Republicans. It should be an unacceptable position for the American people.”

McConnell said the President fails to recognize that the American people elected a divided government under the assumption that both parties would negotiate.

“There will have to be a compromise no matter what the President says today because his party doesn’t control the entire government,” he said. “The American people have frequently elected a divided government. When they do that, they don’t expect us to do nothing, to not talk to each other.”

Senate Democrats, McConnell said, are reinforcing the stalemate in their refusal to negotiate with House Republicans.

“The House has sent over a number of different proposals, including the last one to go to conference and have a discussion about this,” he said. “Senate Democrats voted that down, too. Who’s being unreasonable here?”

Tags: Budget , Obamacare , Government Shutdown

Obama Official: ‘It Doesn’t Really Matter to Us’ How Long the Shutdown Lasts


In today’s Wall Street Journal:

Said a senior administration official: “We are winning. . . . It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown lasts “because what matters is the end result.”

Remember that, every time you hear Obama bewail the shutdown, that his own staffers are saying it “doesn’t really matter” to them how long it lasts.

White House allies, however, say a long shutdown could make the White House’s position less tenable. Mr. Obama is the most visible symbol of the U.S. government, they say, and will inevitably share in the blame as hardships mount and people weary of the infighting.

Ya think? Here’s the cover of the new issue of The Economist:

Tags: Government Shutdown , Barack Obama

The Government Shutdown Isn’t Just a Beltway Phenomenon


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

What’s Being Interrupted During This Government Shutdown

Last week, Jonah Goldberg wrote in his weekly newsletter:

When writing a letter to many thousands of people, it’s hard to narrowcast to a relatively few individuals. But those individuals know who they are. In the last week, in e-mails, comments sections, and on Twitter, I’ve heard from lots of people who think that because I am not swept up in Cruz-mania that I am therefore a sell-out, a fake conservative, a coward (or even a pro-Confederacy, Nazi-stooge Royalist).

Look, I’m a big boy (“literally and figuratively” — the Couch), and I’ve been through this more times than I can count. But that doesn’t mean it becomes any less insulting or dispiriting. I’m not trying to play the martyr, and I fully recognize that the issues here are mountains and my personal feelings are a grain of sand in comparison. But when people who’ve been reading and corresponding with me for years glibly accuse me of abandoning my principles out of a desire to get more invitations to “cocktail parties” it pisses me off.

Earlier this week someone commented on Campaign Spot, asking how I could complain about the shutdown leaving “800,000 bureaucrats” out of work.

The 800,000 folks not reporting to work this morning aren’t all bureaucrats, and you don’t help the cause of the Right if you run around insisting they are.

Dave from Garfield Ridge, a contributor at Ace of Spades, offered some perspective on what “essential” and “nonessential” really means:

I’m a federal civilian employed by the Department of Defense here in Washington, D.C. In my personal life, I consider myself a small-government conservative with a strong libertarian streak — essentially, your stereotypical Tea Partier.

And I’ve just been furloughed, thanks to the shutdown . . . 

Now, every time there’s a weather, sequester or shutdown-related furlough, some of my friends on the Right inevitably snark, “If they’re non-essential, why don’t we just fire them all?” Alas, contrary to the (well-intentioned!) snark seen across the blogosphere of the Right, “non-essential” is NOT synonymous with “unnecessary.”

To explain, here’s an analogy: when a naval vessel is in port, there is a skeleton crew that mans the ship. These personnel — let’s call them “essential” — ensure that their ship doesn’t rust, doesn’t sink, and doesn’t get sabotaged. They can’t sail the ship, however, nor can they enter battle. This band of few, of happy few, are far removed from the full complement required to fight the ship.

On paper, that’s the difference between the government’s definition of “essential” versus “non-essential” employees. Essential employees can keep the government running, but they can’t run the government *well*. The non-essential employees are required to run the government at full effectiveness.

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s Jolt, the government workers who have been sent home without pay come in three varieties: genuine wastes of money and space, genuine necessary employees who are misclassified, and folks somewhere in between.

Perhaps the most extreme example of a necessary expenditure being interrupted is the death benefits — usually $100,000 — won’t be paid immediately to the families of U.S. troops who die during the shutdown.

Believe it or not, there are some folks who get so swept up in the fury about government waste, that they shrug their shoulders at this. When I mentioned the death benefit interruption, someone responded on Twitter, “Delayed. Big deal.”

When someone in uniform makes the ultimate sacrifice for our country, I don’t want any @$#$^% delays in taking care of their family.

Are the regular day-to-day staffers at the Smithsonian museums “bureaucrats”? How about the folks working on this year’s flu vaccine at the Centers for Disease Control?

I keep hearing that my disdain for the shutdown reflects an “inside the Beltway” attitude, that somehow my view of things is reflected by all the “bureaucrats” around me.

Does the term “bureaucrat” accurately label all of the 3,100 workers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston?

How about criminal prosecutors in U.S. Attorneys’ offices in places like Columbia, South Carolina, Charleston, West Virginia, and Concord, New Hampshire?

How about the National Transportation Safety Board plane-crash investigators stationed in Alaska?

How about the 510 civilian employees sent home at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona?

How about the 142 secretaries, maintenance-staff members and civilian library workers at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut?

How about the 12,000 workers at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama?

Or the 2,000 of the civilian employees at Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and 4,900 civilian employees at Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado?

The Pentagon has even had to furlough 234 contract Catholic priests and non-active-duty priests.

There’s a chance these civilian Department of Defense workers will go back to work soon:

In a letter sent Tuesday to Hagel, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services committee, told Hagel that DOD civilians who are currently sitting at home are actually authorized to work by the new law.

“I believe the legislation provides you broad latitude and I encourage you to use it,” McKeon wrote. “The text does not limit the provision of pay to civilians who were previously categorized by the Administration as “excepted” or “essential.” . . . Therefore, I strongly encourage you to use the authority Congress has given you to keep national security running, rather than keeping defense civilians at home when they are authorized to work.”

We don’t know the impact precise impact on the intelligence community; after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave a seriously inaccurate answer while testifying under oath, he’s earned some skepticism. But he claims:

But figures released this week by Clapper’s office indicate that 72 percent of the intelligence community’s civilian workforce has been temporarily sent home, creating holes in virtually every agency and department.

Assume Clapper is exaggerating it by saying it’s twice as bad as it really is. That’s still 36 percent of the civilian workforce. That’s CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office (otherwise known as ‘That Other NRO’, running the spy satellites), the Office of Naval Intelligence, FBI, DEA, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research . . . 

Believe me, I’m vehemently anti-bureaucrat. But the shutdown doesn’t get rid of them. It just puts them on unpaid leave (with a possibility of back pay).

But this doesn’t even save money.

The 1996 shutdowns cost an estimated $2 billion, according to the CRS report, and “created numerous backlogs in government services that will, in many cases, take months to overcome and will slow the delivery of future services.”

Why? One reason is that the workload doesn’t diminish. It just builds up. So new enrollees into Social Security and Medicare as well as passport applications would probably not be processed, but federal employees would have to work through that backlog when the government reopens.

And all those federal salaries that aren’t being paid? No savings are likely. Although furloughed workers are not guaranteed reimbursement, in past shutdowns they have received retrospective compensation for hours lost.

Then there’s the lost revenue. Tourist attractions, including museums, zoos and national parks, are among those government operations that would close under the shutdown. There’s also the lost tax revenue from the lost business to restaurant, hotel, and travel industries. The CRS says 9 million tourists were not able to visit federal monuments and other government operations during the 1996 shutdowns. That added up to millions of dollars of lost revenue to nearby business, resulting in lost tax dollars.

Then of course, there’s the domino effect on the private sector. Like with Sikorsky helicopter manufacturers:

United Technologies, Sikorsky’s parent company, said on its website that if the shutdown continues through next week, UTC’s Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems units would be affected, and company-wide furloughs would double to include 4,000 workers.

This morning, appearing on C-SPAN, our Bob Costa — perhaps the best-connected Capitol Hill reporter in this whole shutdown coverage — said it looks like this shutdown will go on for another two weeks at least.

Dave in Garfield Ridge concludes his post:

And now, today, I’m out of that job. All because politicians are making a gamble that may not even pay off.

I would be THRILLED to lose paychecks in return for delaying the ACA. I’ll gladly pay that price, for I know it would save millions of my fellow citizens the money and headache of complying with a disastrous law. Take my job, please, and get rid of this abomination.

But who genuinely believes this will work? I fear that it won’t. I fear that I, and many others, will have sacrificed pay — and not performed our jobs as public servants, serving each of you — in sacrifice for nothing much gained at all.

So, GOP? Conservatives? Sequester, shutdown, now that we’re finally here, I’ll support anything the team does, I’ll pay any price . . . just win something already, okay?

So what is the win that Republicans will get for all this grief and aggravation?

Tags: Government Shutdown

How Do You ‘Win’ an Unpopular Shutdown Fight?


As mentioned in the Jolt, I’ll be on The Lead with Jake Tapper later today. Undoubtedly, we’ll end up discussing the state of negotiations to end the government shutdown.

Obviously circumstances could change at any time, but it seems neither side has a really good sense of what the other is thinking right now.

I’m sure President Obama thought that the GOP would take a big hit from the shutdown, and that would increase pressure on them to fold and pass a clean CR. The poll numbers say they’re getting more of the blame, but there’s not that big a split, and the numbers are pretty much what you would expect. Republicans blame the Democrats more, Democrats blame the Republicans more, and independents mostly say ”a pox on both your houses.” (Note the CBS poll didn’t offer “both” as an option and it was still the volunteered choice of 17 percent of the public and 24 percent of independents.) I suspect that as this drags on, the “pox on both your houses” sentiment will expand and grow.

Obama, Reid, and their team probably think that within another day, enough House Republicans will fold. And perhaps they will. But they made the same calculation yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. In fact, the best window for a deal was probably right before the shutdown. Boehner might have concluded accepting some minuscule face-saving concession — say, reducing the 2.3 percent medical-device-manufacturer tax to 2 percent or something — would be enough to justify taking a deal that avoids the shutdown.

Now, for Republicans, the poll-support hit is already priced in, and having taken the hit, they might as well hold out until they get some more substantial concession — after all, there’s no point in settling for the same deal they could have reached a week ago.

The GOP’s hold-out crowd also assumes that at some point, the consequences of the shutdown will be severe enough that Obama will need to make concessions and reach a deal. Silly maneuvers like the National Park Service’s showdown with the World War Two Honor Flights, or Harry Reid’s inane gaffe on children with cancer, strengthen that perception.

But Obama’s still convinced that he’s “winning” this fight (he’s wrong; as the shutdown drags on, there are no winners) and that if he takes a deal — after weeks of insisting that he won’t negotiate, and the opposition is hostage-takers, guys with bombs strapped to their chest, etc. — then his base, already displeased by the NSA and Syria stuff, will be livid.

It’s an awful mess, and over time, it’s going to appear more and more silly to suggest that either party or a particular leader could be seen as “winning” this. The more this drags on, the more the entire leadership on both sides — Obama, Reid, Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell — takes a hit as the public regards them as incapable of compromising and negotiating when it mattered most.

As with nuclear war in WarGames, “the only way to win is not to play.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Government Shutdown , John Boehner , Harry Reid

Deal With Harry Reid? Why Would We Want to Do That?


At a press conference earlier today, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Senate majority leader Harry Reid why he was opposing a bill that would authorize funding for the National Institutes of Health, an institution that had to stop experimental disease treatments this week because of the government shutdown.

Bash asked, “If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?”

Harry Reid responded, “Why would we want to do that?”

After all, he would lose leverage, and there’s no political benefit in it for him.

That’s the sort of clarifying moment that deserves a gif:

Tags: Harry Reid , Government Shutdown

How the Park Service Is Enforcing the Shutdown on the Mall Today


So here’s the situation on the National Mall:

The Smithsonian museums are closed, but construction continues on the National Museum of American History’s Public Space Renewal Project . . . 

. . . and the National Museum of African-American Culture and History:

The World War Two Memorial is open to the Honor Flight groups, but access is limited to one entrance on one side with the rest closed off:

Apparently the District of Columbia War Memorial, not far away, isn’t important enough to close. It has no barriers, fences, or tape:

Across the street is the Martin Luther King Memorial, which is, in fact, closed . . . but while I was there, there were no National Park Service personnel to prevent people from entering. So some people just jumped the fence.

Moving along, the Korean War Memorial, technically closed, had the most visitors . . . 

. . . although the Vietnam Veterans Memorial came close:

The fence blocking off the Vietnam Veterans Memorial had been moved, and the visitors ignored it:

But no one dared jump the fence at the Lincoln Memorial.

In short, the National Park Service has technically closed all of the monuments, but the level of enforcement varies widely. Perhaps their staff recognizes the public relations fallout that would result from arresting tourists for trespassing.

Finally, all of the visitors to the World War Two Memorial walked by this engraving:

Tags: Government Shutdown

The Wall Is Down.


The wall is down; the National Park Service announced that all Honor Flights will have access to the World War Two Memorial for “First Amendment activities.”

From a reader on the mall:

Tags: Government Shutdown

Another Scar of a Wall


The World War Two Memorial is an open-air memorial open 24 hours a day, yet for some reason, the National Park Service insists that access to it must be shut off to everyone — including Honor Flights.

A line from Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech: “Today I say, as long as the gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.”

Replace “German” with “park.”

Tags: Government Shutdown


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