U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24, 2013. Washington faces two looming deadlines, with the Democrats and Republicans far apart on a solution. The U.S. government runs out of money on Sept. 30 unless Congress approves a new spending law and will be unable to pay its bills by mid-October if the debt limit is not increased. (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) (Photo : REUTERS/Gary Cameron)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were caught talking about the government shutdown while Sen. McConnell was wired with a hot mic. The conversation was recorded by local news station WPSD 6. Sen. Paul came over to speak to Sen. McConnell about the Republican strategy, even though McConnell warned him that he was wired with a mic.
"I just did CNN and I just go over and over again, 'We're willing to compromise. We're willing to negotiate.' I think... I don't think they poll tested we won't negotiate. I think it's awful for [Democrats] to say that over and over again," Sen. Paul said.
"Yeah, I do too and I, and I just came back from that two hour meeting with them and that, and that was basically the same view privately as it was publicly," Sen. McConnell agreed.
Sen. Paul added, "I think if we keep saying, 'We wanted to defund it. We fought for that and that we're willing to compromise on this', I think they can't, we're gonna, I think... well, I know we don't want to be here, but we're gonna win this, I think."
Their exchange revealed that Republicans are trying to give the impression that they were willing to negotiate to end the continued government shutdown. Republicans are attempting to convince Democrats to agree to a government funding bill that would dismantle or delay portions of the Affordable Care Act, even though the health care law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012.
President Obama and Democrats in Congress have said that they will not negotiate. Democrats want the Republicans to pass a spending bill that is not tied to the new health care initiative so government can reopen.
The government has been at in impasse since the shutdown began Tuesday, which prompted the furlough of thousands of federal employees, with thousands more forced to work without pay. Many government-run facilities, including museums and national monuments, have also been shut down.
Although many Republicans in the House and Senate agree with the Republican strategy, some senior Republican officials believe that hardline conservatives such as Paul and McConnell are hurting the Republican party and inadvertently helping President Obama's image, The New York Times reports.
"Fighting with the president is one thing," said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. "Fighting with the president and losing is another thing. When you're in the minority you need to look really hard to find the fights you can win."
Such Republicans oppose Obama's health care reform law, but believe that the shutdown is overshadowing the law's weaknesses, and is hurting Republicans' chances for revising the law.
"This is a huge distraction," said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee. "Instead of that being the conversation, we're talking about the government shutdown, and the average citizen can't help but say the Republican Congress isn't helping."
The most vocal GOP opponents of the government shutdown are those from swing districts, as well as Republican governors. Some Senate Republicans are furious with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who led the movement to block the funding of the health care law.
Despite the opprobrium heaped upon Cruz, the Texas senator did not present a plan as to how as party could win the shutdown debate. He also suggested that his Republican colleagues were "defeatists."
Senior Republicans are worried that the tactics of Cruz and his cohorts in the House are adding to the image of the Republican party as intransigent, hence making President Obama look better.
"The story people see now is President Obama sinking like a rock for months, and the only thing holding him up are the Republicans," said Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi who previously led the Republican National Committee. "We have to get to the best resolution we can under the Obama administration, and then focus on some other things."
Watch the video of Paul speaking to McConnell below.