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Reason For Optimism? Two Sides Talking On Debt Ceiling


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's sort out the talks over the partial government shutdown and the debt ceiling with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, who's on the line. Mara, good morning.


INSKEEP: OK. So the president met with leading House Republicans yesterday at the White House. They seemed to have discussed both of these issues, the debt ceiling and the shutdown. Didn't announce a deal but are they close to one?

LIASSON: Well, staff was supposed to continue talking through the night. They are going to have another one of these meetings, one of these non-negotiations, with Senate Republicans today at the White House. So the logjam appears to be breaking. As you said, the two sides are actually talking to each other, even though they haven't resolved this yet.

What Republicans have offered the president is that they would raise the debt ceiling until November 22nd - or at least they'd try to pass a bill that did that.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

LIASSON: And in the meantime, they want discussions on reopening the government and broader talks on the big budget tax and entitlement issues. In the Senate, meanwhile, there are talks about some kind of a short-term measure to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government, which the White House would clearly prefer. And here's a sign that progress might be forthcoming. Both Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, two big, important outside conservative groups, are not opposing a clean debt limit bill.

INSKEEP: Which would mean no conditions attached where Republicans would get policy gains.

LIASSON: Right. Right.

INSKEEP: What prompted Republicans to change course?

LIASSON: They were losing. They were just getting battered politically. And here's a pretty good example of what was happening to the Republican political position. This is a new Wall Street Journal-NBC poll. By a 22 point margin the public thinks the Republican Party is more to blame for the shutdown than President Obama. That's a bigger margin of blame than the Republicans received during the last shutdown in 1995.

The Republican Party is now at record low levels of unpopularity. Only 24 percent of people have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party. The Democrats aren't doing much better, but at least they have a 39 percent favorable rating and they're not dropping like the Republicans. And here's the other thing. The president's approval rating actually went up in this poll.


LIASSON: So he's staying pretty stable.

INSKEEP: Even though House Speaker John Boehner did not offer to immediately reopen the government, aren't there a lot of Republicans at this point who would like to just do that?

LIASSON: Yes. There's no doubt about that. But we don't know if that's going to happen. One of the questions is would the president start negotiations with the government still shut down? He has said in the past he wanted both things done, the debt ceiling raised and the government reopened. Harry Reid, who's been driving this strategy, said yesterday, when asked whether negotiations could begin if the government is still closed, he said simply: not going to happen.

INSKEEP: That, of course, is the Senate majority leader.


INSKEEP: The Democratic leader. One quick question, Mara Liasson. Where is the business community, Wall Street, in all of this?

LIASSON: Wall Street is really staying pretty quiet. They're not weighing in, in the sense of plunging - the Dow plunging out of fear that the default would happen. They are acting as if they believe the risk of default is very small. The business community wants the debt ceiling raised. They've been saying that it should raise, be raised. But they're not exhibiting the kind of panic and fear that would result in a big market plunge that in the past has been what it takes to concentrate everyone's minds in Washington.

INSKEEP: Mara, thanks as always.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson with the latest on the negotiations over the debt ceiling and the partial federal government shutdown. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.