The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 16, 2013

A deal: Voting to avoid default, open government

Boehner says "fought good fight," but didn't win

(Continued)

Obama and Reid refused, then refused again and again as Boehner gradually scaled back Republican demands.

The shutdown initially idled about 800,000 workers, but that soon fell to about 350,000 after Congress agreed to let furloughed Pentagon employees return to work. While there was widespread inconvenience, the mail was delivered, Medicare continued to pay doctors who treated seniors and there was no interruption in Social Security benefits.

Still, national parks were closed to the detriment of tourists and local businesses, government research scientists were sent home and Food and Drug Administration inspectors worked only sporadically.

Obama and Boehner both came to the same conclusion — that they would allow the shutdown to persist for two weeks, until it became politically possible to reopen government and address the threat of default at the same time.

As Republican polls sank, Boehner refused to let the House vote on legislation to reopen the entire government, insisting on a piecemeal approach that the White House and Reid rejected as insufficient.

As the Oct. 17 debt-limit deadline approached, there were warnings from European officials as well as Cabinet members and bankers in this country that failure to raise the debt limit invited an economic disaster far worse than the near-meltdown of 2008.

On Tuesday, the Fitch credit rating agency said it was reviewing its AAA rating on U.S. government debt for possible downgrade.

By then, the endgame was underway.

Late last week, Obama met with Boehner and House Republicans at the White House. The session resulted in brief follow-up talks in which GOP aides suggested easing the across-the-board spending cuts in exchange for changes in benefit programs such as making Medicare more expensive for better-off beneficiaries.

After that faltered, Reid and McConnell announced over the weekend they were seeking a deal to solve the crises, and expressed hope they could quickly come to an agreement.

That effort was suspended on Tuesday, a day of suspense in which Boehner made one last stab at a conservatives' solution. When his rank and file refused to coalesce around any proposal, he gave up and McConnell and Reid returned to their labors.

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Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Henry C. Jackson, Bradley Klapper, Laurie Kellman, Julie Pace and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this story.

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