The decline in President Obama's popularity has heightened the vulnerability of his fellow Democrats in this fall's congressional elections.» Read More
While the politics of the healthcare law and immigration play out this week, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., are quietly working out the details of a possible two-year long budget agreement.
This would be significant because it would avert the threat of another government shutdown and allow both sides an opportunity to "regain some trust," according to a Democratic aide.
What could a deal look like?
Details are being kept purposely vague, but sources familiar with the ongoing negotiations have sketched out the following details:
•The two-year deal would likely cover fiscal year 2014 and 2015.
•It would set the top line budget number for both years. That's important because it's what the appropriations committees will work with when they decide how to allocate funding for specific government programs under the funding guidelines set by that top line.
•That top line budget number would be in the neighborhood of appropriating $967 billion to $1.058 trillion each year. Possibly in the $990 billion dollar range, though the specific dollar amount is not yet known.
The deal seeks to limit the impact of sequestration by finding other areas of government to raise revenues and also by cuts or reforms to programs.
President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is a "wet blanket" on the U.S. economy, Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., told CNBC.
"They made a promise that nobody could actually deliver on, not just in terms of the website, but on the overall policy of Obamacare, which is an abysmal failure" he said in an interview Tuesday on "The Kudlow Report."
The New York Times reported Monday that, according to documents from a House panel, McKinsey & Co. consultants had briefed senior administration officials as early as March about trouble with HealthCare.gov.
That news came on the heels of millions of plan cancellations by insurers, even after the president repeatedly promised, "If you like your plan, you can keep it."
(Read more: Officials were warned about Obamacare site woes)
Host Larry Kudlow suggested that people are just as angry about misinformation as they are about the law itself, and Walker agreed.
"Either they're not listening to the facts or they're not being informed," he said of the Obama administration. "In either case, it's rather frightening."
Walker, who favors repealing the law, said Obamacare will be a defining issue in the 2014 midterm elections.
Republican Tony Fratto says problems plaguing Obamacare go far beyond the the botched rollout of its troublesome website. Democrat Howard Dean begs to differ.
The two appeared Monday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
"Some of the bigger problems ... are not with the website," Fratto said. "They're with the programmatic pieces of it, like the expansion of Medicaid and some of the new costs that some of the new enrollees are finding that they're going to have to pay for their plans."
The White House deputy press secretary under George W. Bush added: "The expansion of the Medicaid side of this is surprising a lot of people, and the numbers are far bigger than what was anticipated."
(Read more: Obamacare's history lesson)
Dean, the former Vermont governor, disagreed.
"I don't think there are a lot other problems besides the website. This system that's being used in Obamacare is what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts and it worked very well. We're five years later and 98.5 percent have their health-care plans.It's extraordinary in this country."
The U.S. Postal Service reported on Friday that it managed to slow the hemorrhaging of cash in its latest fiscal year, but said a legislative fix is still needed to put it on a sound financial footing.
The mail agency, which does not rely on taxpayer funds, said its loss for the 2013 fiscal year narrowed to $5 billion from nearly $16 billion in the prior year.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) said it benefited from growth in its shipping and packages business as well as aggressive cost-cutting that included a drastic reduction in employee hours. But the agency is still struggling under the weight of heavy mandatory payments into its future retirees' health fund, which was mandated by Congress in 2006, as well as the continued slide in first-class mail, its most profitable product.
(Read more: How technology is changing the shopping experience)
"We've achieved some excellent results for the year in terms of innovations, revenue gains and cost reductions, but without major legislative changes we cannot overcome the limitations of our inflexible business model,'' Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is less than optimistic about the Affordable Care Act.
"I have grave doubts," Cheney said in a one-on-one interview on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" on Wednesday. "If you can't even set up the website, what else is there that's flawed in the system?"
The Department of Health and Human Services released data Wednesday showing that fewer than 27,000 Americans had signed up for insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2. The administration has not yet released a statement on the estimated millions who have received notices of plan cancellation.
(Read more: Obamacare rollout numbers much worse than expected)
"We've got millions of people, now their policies are being lifted," Cheney said. "They were told they could keep their policy; it turns out they can't."
The odd-year election returns rewarded mainstream politicians in ways that offer particular encouragement to the Republican Party and to American business. What's more, the results of a House race in Alabama that got little national attention may foreshadow a stronger role by business in the midterms next fall.
The most important victory on Tuesday went to New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, who garnered 60 percent of the vote in his Democratic-leaning state with a feisty blend of fiscal conservatism and pragmatism.
Christie, who enjoys strong business support, has criticized both the libertarian philosophy of Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and the recent government shutdown promoted by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
His landslide win, after the setbacks those potential rivals have suffered in recent days, represented a strong opening statement for his expected bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination—and could temper conservative criticism he has received for having praised President Barack Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy last year.
The flip side of his victory was the defeat in Virginia's gubernatorial contest of Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. His hard-line conservatism, which drew major backing from the tea party and the religious right, was unable to attract a majority in a Southern state despite his attacks on a politically vulnerable President Obama and his troubled new health-care law.
(Read more: Christie wins big, tea party loses in Va. race)
Many on Wall Street seem scared of the man likely to be their next mayor.
They're worried that the "populist" Bill de Blasio—who has a near 45-point lead over pro-business Republican Joe Lhota going into Tuesday's New York election—will raise their taxes and turn a deaf ear to their concerns.
But some observers say the unease over Democrat de Blasio is more than a bit inflated.
"The fear that he's going to turn against Wall Street is overblown," said Nick Colas, chief strategist at ConvergEx, a brokerage and investment research firm based in NYC.
"You can understand where the fear comes from after having a mayor that's understood Wall Street for years," Colas said, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "But I put this down to fear of the unknown more than anything else."
De Blasio has ridden an undercurrent of populist anger against some business interests, especially the real estate industry. De Blasio the candidate has harnessed that sentiment by using get-tough language toward Wall Street and talking up higher taxes for the city's wealthiest. But some observers doubt that de Blasio the mayor would really seek to alienate an industry that's critical to the city's economic health.
"De Blasio will do his best to keep his campaign promises, but that doesn't mean it comes at the expense of Wall Street," said Christiana Geer, a professor of American politics at Fordham University. "There are so many ways he can work with Wall Street to keep them happy."
Obama's job approval rating has tumbled by 5 percentage points in less than three weeks, the survey showed. In the weakest showing of his five-year tenure, just 42 percent of Americans approve of the president's job performance, while 51 disapprove.
The poll underscores the fact that Obama and his GOP adversaries have been hit by what NBC/WSJ pollster Bill McInturff called a public opinion "shock wave" this fall. Obama's personal favorability declined to the weakest point of his presidency—41 percent positive, 45 percent negative. And pluralities of 38 percent and 41 percent said the shutdown made them feel less favorably about Democrats in Congress and Obama, respectively.
Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster who conducts the survey with Republican McInturff, also pointed to Obama's uncertain handling of the conflict in Syria and controversy over National Security Agency surveillance. "Personally and politically," Hart concluded of the president's standing, "the public assessment is two thumbs down."
(Read more: NSA has hacked into Yahoo, Google accounts: Report)
Republicans in Congress continued to face fallout of their own, with 53 percent of poll respondents saying the recent government shutdown made them feel less favorably toward GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Republican Party received its weakest favorability rating in the quarter-century history of the NBC/WSJ poll, with just 22 percent expressing positive views and 53 negative views.
(Read more: Obamacare can't make health care cheaper: Langone)
Across the board, Hart concluded, "these events have sapped the American spirit." Fully 70 percent of Americans called the nation "off on the wrong track," compared with just 22 percent who say it is "headed in the right direction."
Obama's challenges with the health-care law have compounded the damage. By 40 percent to 9 percent, Americans said recent news has made them less confident about the law rather than more confident. While just 24 percent say the law should be "totally eliminated"—a core Republican demand—28 percent say it needs "a major overhaul."
(Read more: The world's most powerful person is… not Obama?)
Americans remain highly uncertain about the fate of the troubled federal exchange website that's part of the new health-care law, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The survey showed that 31 percent say they think troubles stem from a long-term design flaw that can't be corrected. Another 30 percent consider it too soon to tell, despite the Obama administration's assurance that the site will be running effectively by Nov. 30.
(Read more: Sebelius: 'Hold me responsible for the debacle')
A 37 percent plurality said they think the website's problems can be corrected. Those making definitive assessments, NBC/WSJ pollsters Bill McInturff and Peter Hart agreed, were largely those who were already inclined to either oppose or support the law.
The NBC/WSJ telephone poll of 800 adults, conducted Oct. 25-28, carries a margin for error of 3.46 percent.
(Read more: Obamacare can't make health care cheaper: Langone)
One huge political question surrounds the catastrophic launch of Obamacare: Will the administration double-talk, canceled insurance contracts for millions, terminated doctor-patient relationships, sticker shock from higher premiums and deductibility, and damage to job hiring and economic growth get the GOP off the shutdown hook for the 2014 midterm elections?
That is the question. Donald Rumsfeld would call it a known unknown. And right now nobody knows the answer.
But Christopher Ruddy, founder and CEO of Newsmax, makes an interesting point about this: "The key to stopping Obamacare is for its opponents to win in congressional elections in 2014. Delaying Obamacare only helps the Democrats who support this boondoggle."
So far, with all the problems plaguing the Obamacare website, Senator Marco Rubio is leading the Republican charge to delay the March 31 enrollment deadline and tax penalty. And a lot of Republicans are lining up behind him. But is that the right tactic? On the Democratic side, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and nine of her colleagues are urging the White House to push back the same deadline. But is that just to save their re-election hides next November?
Obama recently appointed a new team to fix the website. And that team promptly predicted a successful fix by the end of November. So if that happens, it's possible the whole Obamacare-disaster issue dies.
But according to highly respected health-industry expert Bob Laszewski, the chances of that are low. He says it will take at least a year to fix the "backend" problems — the technical links between the website, the Department of Health and Human Services, and most importantly the insurance companies, which are receiving massively error-laden information.
Laszewski says this is more important than the front-end disaster, where somebody in the Obama administration — literally at the last minute in mid-September — gave the order that the website require a detailed account-registration process before a user can shop for insurance.
Nobody knows why that decision was made. Perhaps it was to stop the media from seeing unsubsidized premium prices that undermine Obama's promise for cheaper insurance. Or maybe the Obama folks wanted to block potential registrants from pricing-structure sticker shock. Either way, the decision to put registration ahead of shopping blew up the whole system.
And it may also have blown up Obama's attempt to break the Republican party in half and carry a Democratic House in 2014.
(Watch: New fight shaping up in Washington)
And that's Ruddy's point: If Republicans hold the House and win the Senate next year, there'd be two houses to repeal Obamacare. But if the March 31 delay effort works, will voters forgive and forget a botched website launch?
Experts like Laszewski are now talking about the possibility of 16 million people getting pink slips for their current insurance. That's no insurance. No doctor. Nothing. Already, over 1 million people have lost their insurance, with cancellation notices actually soaring above Obamacare enrollment rates.
Of course, President Obama said none of this would happen. Remember? But everything has changed. And unless the system gets fixed by January 1, a lot of folks are going to be very angry as they're left out in the cold.
Holman Jenkins of The Wall Street Journal calls the whole Obamacare effort a con job. By that, he means a key Obama constituency, the young and healthy, are not going to buy overpriced insurance policies. They are the losers. And the winners are the older and sicker shoppers who allegedly are going to be subsidized by the young.
But the young are not stupid. They'd rather pay the minor tax penalty to stay out of this mess. And that means the system may go bankrupt because older and sicker customers will experience soaring premiums if the young and healthy don't show up to subsidize their care.
And guess who's going to do that subsidizing? We are. The taxpayers. And the whole cost structure of Obamacare will take another giant leap upwards -- above the Congressional Budget Office's already tripled cost estimates.
(Read more: Bad management plagues Obamacare: Ex-Obama advisor)
The net economic effects of Obamacare also will become more apparent as large companies with heavy numbers of low-wage workers cut back on hiring, reduce hours worked, take on part-timers whenever possible, and send their workers into the Obama exchanges. But those workers won't wind up in the exchanges. They'll end up in Medicaid, which is already going bankrupt.
And who's paying for that bailout? We are. The taxpayers.
The mainstream media have in large part turned against Obamacare, and all these factoids are going to be reported. So that raises the question regarding 2014: Do Republicans really want to bail out Obama by handing him a year's delay? If all the flaws in Obamacare do pan out, they may well overshadow the shutdown negatives suffered by the GOP.
I think I am lining up on Chris Ruddy's side. There's an old political adage: If your opponent is determined to hang himself, for Heaven's sake, don't take away the rope.