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No Political Compromise Keeps Most Federal Offices Closed


And with some perspective on why the two sides are so dug in, and what options Speaker Boehner and President Obama may be weighing, we turn as we do most Mondays to Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi. How are you, Renee?

MONTAGNE: And Cokie, given what Tamara just reported, that a small but very key group of Republicans are unlikely to go along with a possible solution to the next crisis that's looming - that's a possible default on the national debt - what does Speaker Boehner do?

ROBERTS: Well, it's not clear. He probably punts, tries to get something short term done while negotiating on the long term. The problem, of course, is right now the president says he won't negotiate. I talked to a senior White House official over the weekend and he says Congress has to do its core curriculum, which is just fund the government, pay its bills, and then we'll negotiate.

And the Democrats are challenging Boehner to just put a clean funding bill on the floor and see if it will pass. Boehner says it won't, that he must have a conversation with the president, so the stalemate continues.

MONTAGNE: And this hard line from Speaker Boehner is one that some of his friends say he is not particularly happy about, but he is doing it to placate his Tea Party members. But I'm wondering, is this all about maintaining this job as Speaker?

ROBERTS: No. I think - certainly that's some of it, and as you just heard Norm Ornstein saying in Tamara's piece, you know, if he's not speaker, then it goes to one of the people in the Tea Party who deposes him, and other members of the party, as well as Speaker Boehner, can say that's not good for the party and it's not good for the country by their lights.

Look, he's trying to keep the House Republican, and this is about maintaining that majority. If the House is not in Republican hands, then none of the government is in Republican hands, and so it is a matter of keeping all the Republicans happy and winning. Now, you know, there's a lot of argument about how to do that best and you should hear the incredible hear the incredible anger on the subject of Senator Tom Cruz from Texas.

You know, Republicans, mainstream Republicans are quite angry with him, but they're picking and choosing their battles, and so they're hoping that maybe that at some point they can actually make a deal with the president.

MONTAGNE: You know, and something curious, when Speaker Boehner was on ABC yesterday, he did not talk about the Affordable Care Act. He seemed to be trying to shift the conversation to one about reforms on programs like Social Security and Medicare, and that's something that has come up.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I found that very interesting because, look, they know in their heart of hearts that the president is not going to negotiate on Obamacare. You know, this is his signature achievement, and so that's not going to happen. But so the speaker yesterday started talking about the retirement of the baby boom and how expensive that's going to be and how that really does add to the debt, so that when you're talking about the debt ceiling, that that is a place to negotiate.

The problem there is that the president insists that revenues be on the table and the speaker insisted yesterday again that revenues would not be on the table. So right now nobody is in a position where they're showing some light here. The speaker said there might be a back room someplace, but nobody's in it. Now, there is some hope that the budget chairmen of each house are meeting, but it is really, right now, still very, very, very stalemated.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR's Cokie Roberts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
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