Washington Post; "With federal agencies set to close their doors in five days, House Republicans began exploring a potential detour on the path to a shutdown: shifting the fight over President Obama’s health-care law to a separate bill that would raise the nation's debt limit. If it works, the strategy could clear the way for the House to approve a simple measure to keep the government open into the new fiscal year, which will begin Tuesday, without hotly contested provisions to defund the Affordable Care Act."
Roll Call: "House Republican leaders are now in full flinging-spaghetti-at-the-wall mode as they float ideas for a spending bill that could win over enough of their rank and file to prevent a government shutdown."
Wall Street Journal: "The government is closer to running out of money to pay its bills than previously thought, the Treasury Department warned Wednesday, clarifying the fiscal deadlines confronting Congress amid continued disarray on Capitol Hill. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the government would be left with just $30 billion cash on hand 'no later' than Oct. 17, and the Congressional Budget Office predicted these funds would be used up between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31 if legislation isn't enacted to raise the ceiling on government borrowing."
Los Angeles Times: "The Senate easily overcame Wednesday’s first hurdle to a fizzling GOP strategy to strip funding for President Obama’s healthcare law in exchange for keeping the government running. Top Republicans are now for a new — more modest — way to chip away at the Affordable Care Act. Time is not on their side after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) monopolized the floor in his lonely filibuster-like campaign. Money for routine government operations is set to run out Oct. 1, unless Congress acts."
NBC News: "Arizona Sen. John McCain lit into Ted Cruz's marathon speech against Obamacare shortly after the Texas senator's 21-hour effort came to its conclusion on Wednesday. McCain, Republicans' 2008 presidential nominee, castigated the effort to use the specter of a government shutdown to defund Obamacare. But more pointedly, McCain sharply criticized Cruz for likening those who oppose defunding Obamacare to Nazi appeasers before World War II."
New York Times: "Some Republicans are beginning to complain more and more that with the help of outside, Tea Party-inspired groups, Mr. Cruz and others like Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky — both presidential prospects who battled alongside their colleague from Texas in the current health care fight — are leading conservatives to believe the current fight over cutting money for the health law is winnable when it is not."
Politico: "With his obviously doomed campaign this month against funding the Affordable Care Act, Cruz triggered a wave of vitriol from his fellow Republicans, who lampooned his outsized ego, over-the-top rhetoric and dubious legislative tactics. The avalanche of criticism both threatens Cruz’s status as a GOP golden boy – and strengthens his profile as a kind of tea party folk hero for whom Washington’s hatred is a badge of honor."
AP: "President Barack Obama will promote his health care law in a speech Thursday just days before uninsured Americans can begin signing up for coverage under the law's new insurance marketplaces. The speech comes as the law is under attack from Republicans who are trying to undercut it in budget legislation meant to keep the government operating beyond Sept. 30. The address is scheduled at a community college in Washington's Maryland suburbs."
SOUTH CAROLINA. The State: "Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has a strong backing for reelection next year among GOP voters, while U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will need to convince people in his party to give him another term, according to a new Clemson University poll. Haley received favorable marks from 70 percent of 500 Republican voters who participated in two of the past three GOP primaries....Graham, who is facing competition from the libertarian wing of the party in the June primary, was liked by 53 percent of those polled. More than one-third of GOP voters had an unfavorable opinion of the Seneca Republican."
AP: "Graham is showing no signs of changing how he operates as he faces the biggest challenge of his political career. His three Republican challengers are coming at him from the right, arguing that he's not conservative enough. They're also noting that the 58-year-old lawyer has been in some political office since 1993 and shows no sign of stepping down soon unless he gets voted out.
SOUTH DAKOTA: The Hill: "South Dakota state Rep. Stace Nelson (R) met with a handful of national conservative groups last week in Washington — an indication they continue to search for a challenger to former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) in the state’s open Senate race. The Republican primary field is already wide, and a bruising contest could jeopardize a pickup that is crucial to GOP efforts to take back the Senate in 2014."
TENNESSEE: The Tennessean: "U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr plagiarized other people’s writings at least four times in his answers to questions from a tea party group working to vet potential challengers to Sen. Lamar Alexander. Responding to a questionnaire by the Coalition for a Constitutional Senate, which includes more than 60 Tennessee tea party and far-right groups and a political action committee known as Beat Lamar, Carr copied lengthy phrases and complete sentences from four different articles on The Heritage Foundation’s website."
VIRGINIA. AP's Bob Lewis: "Republican Ken Cuccinelli pushed his knowledge of Virginia's government in a debate that, at times, left his Democratic opponent in the governor's race,Terry McAuliffe, without answers or changing the subject. And Cuccinelli found himself furiously rejecting McAuliffe claims that his actions against gay rights as attorney general had almost driven business from Virginia and that he had put wealthy benefactors and campaign contributors ahead of state taxpayers."
Washington Post: "There was no obvious gaffe in the debate, and the sparring featured no game-changing pronouncements or exchanges. When McAuliffe said he would sign legislation to legalize gay marriage, Cuccinelli corrected him on a point of process: That sort of change would not come by way of a bill but as an amendment to the Virginia Constitution. Both men ducked questions: McAuliffe on the cost of raising teachers’ salaries, funding pre-kindergarten programs and other priorities on his agenda; Cuccinelli on what tax loopholes he would close to pay for his promised $1.4 billion tax cut. Speaking to reporters afterward, Cuccinelli said it would take him a year to determine what to eliminate."
NBC's First Read: "But much of the debate saw Cuccinelli work to broaden and soften his image. He entered Wednesday's debate trailing McAuliffe in most polls, suffering deficits among women voters and Virginians in key suburban areas. He spoke repeatedly of his work to free innocent convicts and prevent sexual assault in hopes of breaking down his portrayal as a hard-charging conservative. 'No one up here has done more to protect women than I have,' Cuccinelli said of himself and his challenger. McAuliffe, by contrast, was all too eager to highlight the attorney general's past actions on abortion rights, and his comments about gay rights."
Politico: "For his part, Cuccinelli tried to turn the tables on ethics against McAuliffe, noting that the former Democratic National Committee head has remarked in the past that his political connections have helped enable various business ventures. 'You may not always agree with me in this race, but you’ll always know where I stand and why I hold the positions that I do,' he said. He later added, 'If Terry’s elected governor, we’re going to have to change the state motto from sic semper tyrannus to quid pro quo.'"
Richmond Times Dispatch: "While he wasn’t included onstage, Sarvis got his message across during the debate by airing his first TV ad. It begins with pictures of McAuliffe and Cuccinelli and a voiceover. A woman’s voice says: 'Can’t vote for these guys?' Viewers then see footage of Sarvis, who says: 'Well, I can’t either and that’s why I’m running for governor of Virginia.'"
WEST VIRGINIA. EMILY's list is endorsing Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in the state's Senate race. "She is a trailblazer, a groundbreaking leader, and most of all,ready to be West Virginia's first woman senator -- in a 55-year Democratic seat that the GOP is clamoring to take over," EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock writes in this morning's endorsement.