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Can John Lewis Break Democrats’ Losing Streak in Montana?

While Democrats have controlled both Montana Senate seats since Jon Tester’s initial victory in 2006, and the party has had no trouble winning the governorship, the state’s at-large House district has been much more elusive. John Lewis hopes to break the streak.

No, it’s not that John Lewis you’re thinking of.

This one is a 35-year-old Democrat who spent a dozen years working for Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. Baucus is retiring next year and the state’s lone House representative, Republican Steve Daines, is expected to run to succeed him. Meanwhile, Lewis is the lone Democrat in the race to replace Daines. His journey won’t be easy.

Democrats haven’t won a House race in Montana since 1994 when incumbent Rep. Pat Williams won re-election with 48.7 percent. The seat has been open three times in the past two decades (1996, 2000 and 2012). Republicans won each of those contests but with 52 percent twice and 53 percent last year.

Read More on Roll Call: Can John Lewis Break Democrats’ Losing Streak in Montana?

GOP Senators Skeptical of House Short-Term Debt Limit Plan Without End to Shutdown

A growing chorus of Republican senators support reopening the government either as part of or before any agreement to raise the debt limit, despite a House GOP plan to keep the government shuttered while taking the risk of default off the table.

A significant number of GOP senators dismissed the House Republicans’ proposal either as short-sighted or out of touch with the political and economic realities of the shutdown. And at least one member of the GOP Conference said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is still active in leading conversations to resolve the current standoff, as Roll Call first reported last week.

“If we don’t reopen the government, we are failing the American people. We cannot continue to go on [like this],” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who proposed a plan to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. “With each passing day, the harm is more widespread and the consequences will be more deeply felt by the American people and by our economy. I just don’t see how you can ignore the fact the government is shut down.”

“I don’t think we’re serving any policy or political goals by keeping the government shut down,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who last Congress served in the House.

“I don’t think we should just address the debt limit and not address the shutdown,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Read More on Roll Call: GOP Senators Skeptical of House Short-Term Debt Limit Plan Without End to Shutdown

Could These Senators Solve the Shutdown and Debt Limit Mess?

With Speaker John A. Boehner still trying to figure out what, if anything, he can pass to reopen the government and avoid a catastrophic default on the debt, the Senate may be the place where a deal to end the current impasse must arise.

If or when that time comes, the key question turns to who in the polarized chamber might be able to craft a plausible agreement.

“You should make a list of 20 Democrats and then for the Republicans just put one big question mark,” quipped one Democratic aide.

Democrats, who are insisting on clean continuing resolution and debt ceiling bills, do not believe there are any Republicans who have enough clout to broker an agreement that could pass the Senate, even if Democrats did offer concessions.

Read More on Roll Call:

Members Question: Is Shutdown Fundraising Worth It?

The government has shut down, but Charlie Palmer, Johnny’s Half-Shell, The Monocle and many other local congressional fundraising haunts aren’t closed.

For some members, they might as well be.

When the government shut down last week, many members rushed to cancel long-planned events at restaurants, spas and shooting ranges. Without an edict from party leaders, members must decide individually whether it’s kosher to bring in bucks during the spending impasse.

So far, vulnerable members have rationalized that the optics of walking into a mega-donor event isn’t worth the cash.

“It’s just a moral decision that each person is making on their own,” said vulnerable Rep.Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz. “We’ve got people out of work. There’s still high unemployment in my district. This is not the time to be raising money.”

Read More on Roll Call: Members Question: Is Shutdown Fundraising Worth It?

Republicans Refocus From Obamacare to Spending

As the GOP searches for a way to save face with conservatives, climb out of the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, senior House Republicans are hoping to shift the focus from Obamacare to spending.

Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed from Rep. Paul D. Ryan titled “Here’s How We Can End This Stalemate,” and noticeably absent was the one word that prompted the shutdown chess match: Obamacare.

The Wisconsin Republican is advocating broad, long-term cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, calling those mandatory spending programs “the nation’s biggest challenge.”

He isn’t alone in that thought. Many senior Republicans have long felt the party would be better off fighting for a spending and entitlement overhaul than for a delay or repeal of parts of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Read More on Roll Call: Republicans Refocus From Obamacare to Spending