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Democrats Mull Divulging Emails With Boehner Staff as Shutdown Fight Gets Personal

Senate Democrats are considering leaking a series of emails between the chiefs of staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker John A. Boehner regarding employer contributions to congressional staff health care plans, multiple top-level sources said late Monday.

Senate Democratic chiefs of staff discussed the emails between Reid chief David Krone and Boehner chief Mike Sommers at a recent meeting, according to a source with direct knowledge of the meeting.

Leaking the emails would be unusual, given the taboo over disclosing personal communications between top staffers. But the missives also would reveal Boehner’s position on employer subsidies for congressional staff. Democrats believe the Ohio Republican’s decision to attach an amendment to revoke those contributions to the most recent House continuing resolutionwas a direct shot at vulnerable Senate Democrats up in 2014.

Read More on Roll Call: Democrats Mull Divulging Emails With Boehner Staff as Shutdown Fight Gets Personal

Last-Ditch CR Effort by House Faces Certain Senate Rejection

Updated 1:35 a.m. | Now locked in a budget standoff during a government shutdown, House Republicans passed a face-saving measure early Tuesday morning that would request a conference with the Senate on the continuing resolution to fund the government.

Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters early Tuesday morning that Republicans want to keep the government open but want “basic fairness” for the American people under Obamacare.

The House agreed to the motion to conference in a 228-199 vote with seven Democrats joining most Republicans in support of the tactic. Nine Republicans rejected the resolution.

The motion to conference would ask the Senate to agree to the House’s last offer — which included a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate and a provision eliminating health benefits for members of Congress and their staff — and attempt to move the House and Senate to negotiate sizable differences on the CR.

But the proposal is going nowhere, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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Spencer Bachus Will Not Seek Re-Election in 2014

Longtime Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2014, according to several local news outlets and a statement from his office.

“It has been the greatest privilege imaginable to serve as the representative of the people of Alabama in the United States House of Representatives,” Bachus said in a statement. “It is an honor that I never dreamed could have been possible for me and the words ‘thank you’ are far from adequate. But as Ecclesiastes 3 says, to everything there is a season and I feel in my heart that now is the time for me to announce this decision and allow others to have the opportunity to serve.”

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Where Has Paul Ryan Been During the Latest Shutdown Debate?

With Congress locked in near-continuous budget and debt limit battles, one influential lawmaker has been noticeably quiet this year.

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the House Budget chairman and the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, has been a trusted, go-to source on budget and fiscal issues in the party for years. Yet the Wisconsin Republican has not, seemingly, been at the forefront of the most recent fight over a stopgap spending bill, nor has he been a loud voice on the debt limit.

And that has some Republicans scratching their heads.

“It’s a legitimate question. I have no idea,” Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah said in response to a question about why Ryan hasn’t been more vocal.

“I don’t know that I can really answer that question,” said House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma. “Maybe he’s got a lot of things going on. I just don’t know.”

Republican after Republican spoke highly of the GOP star, saying Ryan remains a thought-leader in the conference.

“He is certainly someone that all of us look to for his ability as a budgetary technician,” said Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona. “His advice, I think, is always not only insightful, but has a compelling impact on most of the members of the conference.”

But even aides who note that Ryan has been vocal behind closed doors say he could be more active.

Read More on Roll Call: Where Has Paul Ryan Been During the Latest Shutdown Debate?

CR Blues: Constant Brinkmanship Brings Fatigue

If you thought this week was bad, get used to it. The dysfunction in Congress is likely to make Capitol Hill life miserable for at least the next two months — if it doesn’t consume yet another holiday season.

The most Congress seems able to manage lately is to keep the lights on for a little longer so they can keep arguing over the budget and Obamacare — and even that has been in jeopardy. And members are starting to feel fatigued by the constant brinkmanship.

“It’s not just frustrating, it’s maddening,” said Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat who has long pushed for a grand bargain on the debt.
“I’ve started chopping wood just to relieve the frustration,” he said.

But for Cooper and other lawmakers, the dance over the debt ceiling has barely begun, with a 17-day sprint until what Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warns would be the nation’s first default on its obligations in history if one side doesn’t blink.

Even if that hurdle is cleared, Congress will have to find a way to fund the budget for the rest of the year.

The pressure has been intense with the band of conservative Republicans demanding a defunding of the health care law clashing with party leadership’s fears of a politically disastrous shutdown to follow.

This week’s marathon speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanding the defunding of Obamacare and calling out his fellow Republicans helped generate thousands of phone calls to GOP offices — some of which, lawmakers said, were abusive, brought staffers to tears and generated behind-the-scenes confrontations inside the GOP.

Read More on Roll Call: CR Blues: Constant Brinkmanship Brings Fatigue