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Fractured GOP Scrambles To Save Face Amid Brutal Shutdown Polls

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AP Photo / Harry Hamburg

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is playing hardball. A Thursday meeting with House Republicans at the White House failed to yield an agreement as the president resisted their plan to extend the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 with the promise of budget negotiations before then.

"Staff talks last night, no decisions made, will pick back up today," emailed a House Republican leadership aide.

Republicans were taken aback by an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll Thursday evening that showed their favorable ratings plummeting to an all-time low. More distressingly, the poll found a "boomerang effect" where the GOP's shutdown goal of targeting Obamacare had backfired as the law's approval rose despite a woeful rollout last week.

Democrats have their own divisions. Unlike Obama, whose only demand is a debt limit hike or continuing resolution be "clean," congressional Democrats don't want to pass one without the other.

"Cooler heads have prevailed, and Republicans have admitted a clean bill to avoid default should be the standard," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Friday. "However ... they're talking about extending the debt ceiling for two months or six weeks -- please. We do not believe a six-week delay of a catastrophic default is enough time to give the economy the confidence it needs."

The two parties are subtly moving closer to agreement. GOP leaders have all but abandoned their Obamacare demands and now simply want Obama to negotiate -- over something, although it's not clear what. The White House meetings, which took place Thursday with House Republicans and are scheduled to take place Friday afternoon with Senate Republicans, provide face-saving mechanisms to both the GOP (who can say Obama negotiated) and for Obama (who can say he didn't concede anything).

But the government still has to be re-opened and the debt limit still has to be extended. What the end result will be remains unclear.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.