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How will the debt ceiling deadline play out?

For more on the shutdown and looming debt ceiling deadline, NewsHour Political Editor Christina Bellantoni joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington. MP3: Listen to the audio of this report.

Read the transcript:

*HARI SREENIVASAN: *For more on what could be next we are joined by the NewsHour political editor, Christina Bellantoni. So let’s start with that protest that we mentioned just a little while ago. There was a picture in The Washington Post that included Ted Cruz and former Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska. Why is this protest getting traction?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: You’re seeing a lot of conservatives really push the idea and blaming President Obama for shutting down this open-air memorial that really doesn’t necessarily need people and staff to run it. It’s something that you see tourists visit all the time in Washington D.C. It’s become this flashpoint on the right, saying that they’ve been blocked. So that’s why you’re seeing the conservatives flock to that. And it’s generating a lot of energy, among House Republicans in particular, who say perhaps those pictures — people see the crowds and they are going to say maybe we are on the House Republican side on this issue. I don’t know that that’s actually going to move the issue when you have the government shut down in its 12th day. But it is still something that is generating a lot of attention.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In regards to the negotiations and conversations — someone missing in all this is Vice President Biden. It was just last December when he was instrumental in negotiating the deal with Mitch McConnell.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Vice President Biden was a Senator — served for decades – knows a lot of the players in the Senate very well and is able to come together and bridge deals. But Senate Democrats are wary of this – both from President Obama and Vice President Biden – wary that whatever deal ends up getting crafted with have more concessions to Republicans than should happen. And so that’s where seeing the pressure and where you’re seeing Biden pushed out the way just a little bit. He’s still been at the table when the President hosted all four caucuses – both the Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, then House Democrats and House Republicans — over the last week. But he’s not going up to Capitol Hill to have these closed-door negotiations like he did last year. And you’re wondering maybe that’s one of the reasons why they’re not coming up with a deal.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the things we’ve heard Rand Paul say this morning on the Sunday talk shows is the sequester level. Saying “if you want these cuts, Senate Republicans are not going to vote on any kind of reopening of the government until these sequester cuts are basically kept in place.” Why is this such an important issue for him?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, that’s actually an important to point out, this continuing resolution — the budget agreement that they had in place that would only fund the government for a few extra weeks it’s not like a one year or a long term plan. It does have the sequester cuts in place. These are reduced levels of funding that we’ve already seen in place for a year and it continues those along. So what Rand Paul is saying is that he wants to see even more cuts and ensure that those cuts become permanent.

Also important to point out that the whole point of the sequester was that it was so painful it would never possibly be implemented. Well it’s been implemented and now for almost a year.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Another thing in the negotiations we keep hearing about is the different date on lifting the debt ceiling. What are the politics behind it? Why does one side want it to possibly be as early as Thanksgiving and another side saying why don’t we keep it off until the end of 2014?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, the mid-term elections have a lot to do that. Senate Democrats would prefer that there is one vote and then you don’t hit the debt ceiling again until after the mid-terms in the fall of 2014. There are a lot of vulnerable Senate Democrats who are facing either tough challenges or possible problems with their re-election campaign, so it’s easier for them not to have to take this vote again. I don’t actually understand why anyone would want to take this vote more than once other than the fact that they are trying to get some concessions. Both sides are trying to get concessions from the other side on whether that’s spending or taxes or the President’s health care law — any of those items.

Right now the big sticking point is does this happen in a few weeks, does it happen in January, does it happen in a year and a month? That really matters for the people that are on the ballot.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about for tomorrow morning – there’s still some concern that stock market, or the financial markets could react adversely to the last 24 hours which haven’t been positive. We’ve essentially seen members of Congress go out on the TV and say that the talks are stalled.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Especially between the House and the White House. Right now Senate Democrats are taking the charge; they’re trying to get an agreement with Senate Republicans. What Harry Reid has said is that he wants to keep those conversations going and that he will be speaking with Mitch McConnell right as when markets open on Monday. Everyone is watching very carefully. Thursday is coming up very rapidly and the way the procedure works, it will take a little bit of time for whatever deal they come up with to actually pass and make it to President Obama’s desk. The clock is really ticking and a lot of people are very nervous that this could have far-reaching consequences on the economy both here in the United States and internationally.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Christina Bellantoni, political editor of the NewsHour, thanks very much.


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