Damage control and political fire-fanning dominate the fourth week of healthcare.gov's existence, making the federal healthcare insurance website for the 36 states that refused to build their own insurance exchange the locus for partisan divide and continuing criticism of federal information technology management. A poll shows that a majority of Americans may already believe that website problems are part of a broader problem with the health insurance law's implementation.
Federal employees who were furloughed due to the government shutdown are entitled to receive back pay under the continuing resolution that funded the government through mid-January. Thousands of furloughed federal employees also claimed unemployment benefits during the shutdown.
As developers scramble to fix problems with healthcare.gov, the federal website for healthcare insurance exchanges, President Obama vowed to improve the website. He also said the product was good, even if the delivery system was flawed.
The Office of Management and Budget notified (.pdf) federal workers should return to work Thursday and begin the process of reopening offices. The bill (H.R. 2775) overwhelmingly passed the Senate 81-18 and the House. Every Democrat in both chambers voted for the bill. Just 87 Republican House members supported the bill.
A special envoy for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is set to begin work Nov. 1. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that Paul Lewis, currently the minority general counsel for the House Armed Services Committee, was chosen for the role. One hundred sixty-four prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay, some of whom have been cleared for release since the mid-2000s.
House Republican leadership wants a short-term deal on the debt ceiling so it can start budget talks, but a group of Republican Senators are pushing for a long-term solution on both the debt limit and the government shutdown. House Republican leaders offered President Obama a plan late Thursday that would raise the debt limit for six weeks and start talks about reopening the government.
With the debt-limit looming, Democrat and Republican leadership turned their attention away from the government shutdown and toward averting a financial crisis. House Republican leadership Thursday pushed a clean short-term increase that would raise the debt ceiling, the Washington Post reports, and it could go to vote late Thursday.
Nine days into the government shutdown, President Obama reached out to Congress to meet Wednesday about a temporary spending bill and the looming debt limit. Meanwhile, public confidence in the economy has dropped during the last week of the shutdown to its lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis, an Oct. 8 Gallup poll says.
House Republicans want to form a bipartisan special committee to work out a deal on the debt ceiling and a temporary spending bill, but Democrats shun the idea, saying that talks cannot start under the threat of a federal default. They also say a majority within the House--mostly Democrats and enough Republicans--supports passage of a bill that would re-open the entire federal government on a temporary basis.
Many political observers predict the government shutdown will continue until the separate debt ceiling crisis is resolved, meaning the government is unlikely to open until Oct. 18. As the government continues into day 7 of the shutdown over a temprorary spending bill to fund the government, House Republicans and aren't budging from tying the bill to additional concessions from Democrats, although it remains unclear exactly what they could be, given Obama's insistence that he will not undermine the Affordable Care Act.