The United States government sputtered back to life Thursday after President Obama and Congress ended a 16-day shutdown, reopening tourist spots and clearing the way for federal agencies to deliver services and welcome back hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers. Across the country, the work and play of daily life, stalled for more than two weeks, resumed at federal offices, public parks, research projects and community programs. Museums opened their doors. Federal money for preschool programs started flowing again. Scientists at the South Pole began ramping up their work. And the National Zoo’s panda cam flickered on again (though a flood of online visitors soon crashed it). For Shafiqullah Noory, on his first trip to the United States from Afghanistan, the legislative deal came just when he needed it. Sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, admiring the view of the Washington Monument, he said he knew why Abraham Lincoln had been an important leader. “If you have the unity, you have the prosperity,” he said. “And then everything comes after that.”
With the federal shutdown finally resolved, life for most of those affected by it is returning to what passes for normal. Civil servants are back at work, departments are open and perhaps most important, federal funding for state and local programs is flowing again. This is especially good news for the state’s less-fortunate residents who must depend on various assistance programs for food and shelter. But before anyone forgets what we just saw, it’s worth taking a look at how North Carolina government handled the crisis. Especially at the Department of Health and Human Services, the performance can be expressed in one word: Lousy.
North Carolina’s government got back up to speed Thursday with the federal shutdown now ended and federal funds for welfare, health and child care programs flowing back to the states. The state suspended Work First welfare applications earlier this week and told counties they’d have to make do with fewer child care subsidy dollars because money wasn’t authorized by Congress after Sept. 30. North Carolina appeared to be the only state that took such actions, rather than extending those services with state dollars and expecting reimbursement from the federal government. DHHS said it wasn’t persuaded enough that North Carolina could count on that payback. The legislation that passed Wednesday night to end the shutdown directed reimbursement to the states for federal programs that continued during the shutdown.
North Carolina’s government got back up to speed Thursday with the federal shutdown now ended and federal funds for welfare, health and child care programs flowing back to the states. The state Department of Health and Human Services, the agency most affected by the 16-day partial closing, said that 2,200 workers who had been furloughed or faced reduced hours because their pay was all or partially funded by Washington were being told to return to work full time. Less than 10 percent of them weren’t able to work at all, the agency said. DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said the agency told county social service officials to resume processing Work First welfare applications and that child care subsidy funds had been restored to previous levels. The state agency hoped to have all services restored by the end of Thursday, he said.
This time, Ted Cruz, the wildly unpredictable radical Republican tea party U.S. senator from Texas, didn’t read Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate, as he did in a recent filibuster. Oh, he voted against the deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and to reopen the federal government, but he knew that to obstruct the business of Congress this time would get him a new office in the basement and a seat in the Senate chamber on a back bench under some air ducts. A deal was done Wednesday, late into the evening, after Republican leaders, having witnessed the GOP dropping somewhere beneath chicken pox in popularity polls, knew they had no alternative. But in the preceding weeks, they’d taken the country dangerously close to the cliff in an effort to destroy President Obama’s health care reform plan, an issue that should have been entirely unrelated to the debt ceiling. To try to get their way, Republicans in effect shut down the federal government, something they did in the mid-1990s in a confrontation with President Bill Clinton.
Lawmakers and strategists from the Republican Party’s establishment are lashing out at tea partyers and congressional conservatives whose unflinching demands triggered the 16-day partial government shutdown and sent the GOP’s popularity plunging to record lows. The open criticism is a stark reversal from just three years ago when the GOP embraced new energy from the insurgent group to fuel a return to power in the House. For a party in an extended identity crisis, the intensifying clash between those in its mainstream and those on its far-right wing muddies its strategy ahead of the 2014 elections.
While both of North Carolina’s senators voted to end the federal government shutdown Wednesday night, it wasn’t unanimous in the House. Democrat Senator Kay Hagan also criticized the shutdown, calling it completely unnecessary."I wasn’t elected to shut down the government or play political games, and it’s time for Congress to stop manufacturing crises and get to work on a long-term, bipartisan and balanced plan to get our fiscal house in order, grow our economy and give certainty to families and business owners," she said. But bipartisan deal did not win universal backing from North Carolina’s House delegation. Democrats G.K Butterfield, Mike McIntyre, David Price, and Mel Watt all voted yes. Joining them were Republicans Howard Coble, Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger. Republicans who voted no on ending the shutdown were Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx, George Holding, Richard Hudson, Walter Jones, and Mark Meadows.
As Congress voted Wednesday night to reopen the federal government and avoid a default, North Carolina’s Republican delegation was divided in its votes. The state’s Democrats were united in their support for the measure. The measure to reopen the government temporarily extends the debt ceiling. It also calls for a bipartisan House and Senate committee to work on larger budget issues by Dec. 13. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, voted for the measure. "From the outset, I have been clear that I believed that defunding Obamacare by shutting down the federal government was unachievable,” Burr said in a statement. “The decision to shut down the government has been viewed, rightfully, by the American people as irresponsible governing.” Hagan said that the government shutdown was unnecessary.
Because of the federal government shutdown, many parents who rely on childcare help from the government were told they could no longer take their kids to daycare this week. That meant they couldn’t work, or even look for work, but when lawmakers passed a resolution to end the shutdown, they woke up to a new day. Some parents told ABC11 they spent much of the week, even last week, in tears. Wondering what they would do about work without daycare. Meanwhile, daycare providers who cater mostly to those on subsidies wondered how they would keep their business afloat. Now, those tears are all dried out, and they’re literally breathing sighs of relief.
If these last two weeks have proven anything, it’s that House Republicans haven’t yet mastered the art of using their majority. Many House Republicans believe they’ve gained next to nothing from a two-week government shutdown and near debt default. At the beginning of October, Republicans decided against funding the government to try to force Democrats to change Obamacare. Sixteen days later, it remains fully funded, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign a debt ceiling increase and extension of government funding without giving up a single thing. The data points are overwhelming. The party is wildly unpredictable, as was evident during this national roller-coaster ride. Even top figures in the House Republican universe can’t completely figure out what their 232-member conference thinks at any given moment. Outside groups still proved they hold outsized sway on Capitol Hill.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz potentially violated ethics rules by failing to publicly disclose his financial relationship with a Caribbean-based holding company during the 2012 campaign, a review of financial disclosure and company documents by TIME shows. The relationship originated with a $6,000 investment Cruz made more than a decade ago in a Jamaican private equity firm founded by his college roommate. When Cruz later reported the financial relationship in 2013, he failed to comply with Senate rules requiring full identification of the holding company and its location, triggering an inquiry by Senate Select Committee on Ethics staff and a second amended disclosure. After additional inquiries by TIME this week, Cruz said he is now in the process making further corrections to his disclosure. Cruz told TIME Thursday that the initial failure to report the financial relationship was an oversight that he corrected last May on his own initiative in his first filing after his election to the Senate. “It was an omission that was inadvertent,” Cruz said. He said the later amendment to the May filing was part of the normal interaction with Senate ethics committee staffers. “There is a routine back and forth with the staff with whom you file the report where they make inquiries,” Cruz says. He provided TIME with copies of a number of relevant documents supporting his explanation of the incorrect disclosures.
It can’t have been easy to be a Republican on Thursday morning. Nearly everywhere you looked for coverage of the end of the shutdown and debt ceiling crises, things were painful. Open the pages of the country’s biggest newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, and you were hit with this headline: Business Frustration with GOP.
The first federal government shutdown in 17 years, triggered by a Republican demand to defund the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1, cost the U.S. $24 billion in potential economic activity — equalling at least 0.6% of projected annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor’s. Instead of the 3% annualized growth fourth quarter originally projected in September, S&P now forecasts actual fourth-quarter growth near 2%, the agency said in a press release: As we’ve said, we expect the Senate deal to be approved. However, the current chatter coming out of Washington suggests that any continuing resolution will be a temporary one, with an early 2014 timeframe for the next set of Washington deadlines. The short turnaround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will likely weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed. If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their checkbooks. That points to another Humbug holiday season.
North Carolina taxpayers spent about $19,000 to remodel a small restroom in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office at the State Capitol over the summer following complaints about a bad smell. McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo said the old Capitol restroom required new paint, tile and repairs last July because of poor maintenance under the Republican governor’s predecessor, a Democrat. "We spent $19,156 to replace broken tiles, flooring and make extensive repairs to plumbing that were not fixed by the previous administration," Genardo said. "Additionally, a pungent odor seeped into the governor’s office, which made it an embarrassment to host company CEOs and guests at the State Capitol."
Well, if the rumors swirling around Raleigh are true, Aldona Wos, Secretary of Health and Human Services is gone. If so, it looks like the McCrory administration waited for a Friday afternoon news dump, hoping people are distracted by the weekend. Regardless, the political establishment will take notice and Pat McCrory, who has stood by the embattled Secretary, will have yet another black eye. But if the rumors aren’t true, they sure should be. Wos has made a mess of the department. She never understood the role of an administrator. She ran off most of the professional staff and brought in political hacks and ideological soul mates with little or no experience in health, human services or administration.
Department of Health and Human Services officials may have violated the North Carolina Constitution when they cut a $37,000 check to an outgoing worker on the job for only a month, personnel experts say. Raleigh attorney Michael Byrne, who regularly represents state employees challenging their terminations, says the settlement appears to violate a section of the state constitution that explicitly prohibits payments to state workers for anything other than "public services."
As the U.S. House’s Republican caucus clashes over the vote to raise the debt ceiling, North Carolina’s delegation is in the national spotlight on the front lines of the battle. The standoff that led to the federal shutdown officially began with a letter written by 11th District Congressman Rep. Mark Meadows. His letter urged House Speaker John Boehner not to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open unless it included language to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows held steady in his stance against the Affordable Care Act this week, voting against reopening the federal government and ending the governmental shutdown. Three of four elected federal officials representing Western North Carolina voted Wednesday night in favor of the bill. Meadows, R-Glenville, who represents the 11th Congressional District, cast the only no vote. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-Lake James, and both U.S. Senators from North Carolina, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan, voted to reopen the government. “Because it was inherently unfair to the American people and continued to give Congress a special deal on Obamacare, I could not support the final bill that passed the House (Wednesday night),” Meadows said in a statement. “Furthermore, I believe it is important to give our business climate more certainty by providing long-term solutions to government appropriations and the debt ceiling.”
I don’t believe the Democrats will win back the House of Representatives in 2014. President Obama’s low approval rating, combined with the usual midterm loss and normal movement away (pdf) from the White House party on the national House ballot, should keep Republicans in control. Yet, there’s a difference between thinking whether the Democrats "will" win back the House or whether they "can" win it back. Right now, the Democrats hold a lead of about 4-5pt per the HuffPollsterand Real Clear Politics average. Many have concluded that this lead would not be enough to take back the House, if the election were held today. However, I believe that it quite likely would be enough. How so? Let’s address a bunch of reasons people expect that a 4-5pt Democratic lead on the national House ballot would result in Republicans still holding the House – and then show why I think those could be wrong.
Just an hour and a half after polls closed Wednesday night across New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker was announced the winner of the special election to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker beat Republican Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bergen County’s Bogota, with nearly 56% of the vote, according to preliminary results. The Associated Press called the race for Booker around 9:30 p.m.The mayor is set to address supporters late Wednesday night in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Because Booker comes into office by way of an off-year special election, the timing of his arrival in Washington remains unclear. Before he can officially replace Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, the Republican acting senator appointed by Gov. Chris Christie in June, the state must first certify the election results.
Political Wire: McConnell Now Trails in Re-Election Race
A new Public Policy Polling survey in Kentucky finds Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) now trails challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), 45% to 43%. Key finding: 48% of Kentucky voters say they’re less likely to support McConnell for reelection next year because he supported the government shutdown, compared to only 34% who say they’re now more likely to support him.
……commissioned by MoveOn.org Political Action and conducted in the wake of the government shutdown, show Republicans are in serious danger in 29 of the 36 districts polled–making it clear that Republicans could easily lose control of the House if the next election were held today. Democrats must net 17 seats to reclaim the House. The surveys challenges the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for Democrats and indicates the shutdown has significant electoral implications.
House campaigns reported their fundraising totals for July through September this week, revealing some surprising hauls from more than a handful of members and candidates. The results showed some longtime members and formidable challengers beating expectations — while others now find themselves at severe cash disadvantages going into tough election cycles. In no intentional order, here are the six most surprising third-quarter fundraising tallies:
A trio of conservative groups announced Thursday they will back Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who is running for the seat held by Sen. Thad Cochran (R). The Club For Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project each announced endorsements. "Chris McDaniel is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop Obamacare, balance the budget, and get America working again," said Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins. Added Club For Growth President Chris Chocola: "Senator Chris McDaniel represents the next generation of conservative leadership that Mississippi Republicans are waiting for."
Last month, News 14 Carolina was the first media outlet to report on some teachers planning a walkout for Nov. 4. Now, another group is urging teachers instead to take part in a walk-in. Teachers have been speaking out all year; frustrated over low pay, no raises, the end of teacher tenure and cuts to education funding. The feeling lawmakers are not listening to their concerns has led some to organize a statewide walkout on Nov. 4. But administrators with the state’s largest school system say that could pose a very serious problem for schools, students, and parents. “You have about 153,000 students that would be sitting in a classroom with no teacher,” said Wake Co. School Board Chair Keith Sutton. State law prohibits teachers from striking. They could be fired and even face criminal charges. So a growing number of teachers across the state, including the Wake Co. Association of Educators, are pushing instead for a walk-in.
A group of teachers stood before a group of panelists discussing the state of education in North Carolina. The teachers had questions about a recent change made by the N.C. General Assembly that would change how high-performing teachers would be rewarded. Panel members were split in their answers. Some said the change mirrored the private sector and also would work in education. Others said public education should be handled differently. Principals will choose the top 25 percent of their teaching staff who already have tenure to move to a four-year contract starting in the 2014-15 school year. If these teachers agree to make the move, they’ll receive a $5,000 bonus spread over the next four years. All teachers will be moved to a one-, two- or four-year contract by the 2017-18 school year.
It was Jan. 18, 1963, and North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford’s call for racial equality on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation captivated the nation, or, in some cases, jolted it. Sanford’s vision that "North Carolina will attempt to provide leadership for the kind of understanding America needs today" was as brave as it was prescient. No southern governor had ever proclaimed with such clarity the role his state could play in building a new South. Today, the emphasis on economic growth, public education and innovative change that has distinguished North Carolina for 50 years has reached a sudden end. North Carolina has a General Assembly and governorship controlled by the extreme factions of the Republican Party, and their legislative super majority means their power is unchecked. In 10 months, they have set out to deliberately and systematically undo 50 years of progress. It’s as if the Tea Party created its own playground of extremist fantasies.
Toobin told an audience at UNC Charlotte Tuesday night that the conservative leanings of the Supreme Court can pretty much be summed up this way: Five Republicans, four Democrats. And the most important decisions justices make, Toobin said, are when “they vote with their feet” and leave the court – allowing a sitting president to name their replacement. Toobin, speaking at UNCC’s Center City campus, praised the University of North Carolina system as the envy of the nation. He said the state legislature’s sharp turn to the right this year “is the biggest political story in the United States,” but not for the best of reasons. “Overnight,” he said, “North Carolina turned into Mississippi.” Toobin appeared at UNCC for the Chancellor’s Speaker Series. He is author of the New York Times bestseller: “The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.”
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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