Republicans Pivot From Obamacare To Find Way Out Of Shutdown

Not long ago, the government shutdown was all about the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans' attempt to defund it. But in recent days, it seems to have become more about finding some way for House Speaker John Boehner to claim some sort of victory.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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And I'm Melissa Block. In the lead-up to the government shutdown, the talk on Capitol Hill was all about whether Republicans could delay or defund the Affordable Care Act. But now, by day four of the shutdown, the storyline has shifted. The question rattling around Washington now is can House Speaker John Boehner get out of this stalemate without achieving that goal and still claim victory?

In a moment, NPR's Scott Horsley will have President Obama's take on who, if anyone, is winning the shutdown debate, but first, here's NPR's Tamara Keith with the view among Republicans.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There's been a lot of talk about winning this week. Indiana Republican Congressman Marlin Stutzman on Wednesday offered his analysis of the shutdown standoff.

REPRESENTATIVE MARLIN STUTZMAN: You got to find a way for both sides to win. And right now, it looks like a win/lose proposition for us as Republicans, so why negotiate anymore?

KEITH: Stutzman was off-message, very far off-message.

STUTZMAN: We're not going to be disrespected and so that's where we're at today, where we have to get something out of this and I don't know what that even is.

KEITH: The next day, he walked back those comments. Some House Republicans are now pushing the idea of a so-called big deal; combining the debt ceiling, the budget, tax reform and cuts to entitlement programs as a possible way out. Though, as this week comes to a close, the GOP talking point is boiled down to a twitter hashtag, "let's talk." Here's House Speaker John Boehner.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness - reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare.

KEITH: At his press conference earlier today, Boehner brought up a quote from an unnamed senior White House official.

BOEHNER: We got the Wall Street Journal out and it says, well, we don't care how long this lasts because we're winning. Now, this isn't some damn game.

KEITH: But Democrats aren't the only ones who see it this way. One moderate House Republican said a majority of his colleagues believe they are winning and see no reason to change course now. That view was repeated on a hot mic on Kentucky's WPSD-TV earlier this week.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: Mitch, do you have a second?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I'm all wired up here.

KEITH: That was Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul talking to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul goes on to say he thinks the Democratic refusal to negotiate is a losing talking point.

PAUL: I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it, we fought for that, but now we're willing to compromise on this, I think they can't - we're gonna - I think - well, I know we don't want to be here, but we're gonna win this, I think.

KEITH: New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, though, would like to turn that message on its head.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Just vote. Vote to let the government stay open. It'll take a single vote in the House of Representatives and then let's talk.

KEITH: And while they debate who's winning and who's talking or not, the government remains partially shut down. Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on another in its series of bills to fund small popular slices of government. Saturday's measure, to give back pay to furloughed federal employees once the shutdown ends. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.

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