As the debt-ceiling deadline approached, Senate Republicans had one specific demand: Democrats had to raise the ceiling through the reconciliation process, assigning the debt a specific dollar figure the GOP could use as a political weapon, or Republicans would try to crash the economy on purpose.
Democrats responded that this was impossible: There wasn't enough time to jump through the procedural hoops, even if the governing majority wanted to play the dangerous game, which it didn't.
It led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to strike a deal: Republicans would give Democrats more time to pay the GOP's ransom. It wasn't long, however, before the right decided that McConnell's agreement represented a "blink" in the party's own hostage crisis. A consensus soon took shape: Republicans pushed the nation toward a radical cliff, but backed off before anyone got hurt.
NBC News reported midday on Friday that many rank-and-file Republicans concluded that McConnell's strategy was the wrong one. This perception, in and of itself, made it far more likely that the Senate minority would have little choice but to take an even harder line in December, when GOP senators launch yet another debt-ceiling crisis.
A few hours after the NBC News piece was published, the mess got quite a bit worse. The New York Times reported:
A day after dropping his party's blockade and allowing action to temporarily increase the federal debt ceiling, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, warned President Biden on Friday that he had no intention of doing so again, reviving the threat of a first-ever federal default in December. In a phone call with Mr. Biden, Mr. McConnell ... said Democrats should not expect such help in the future, according to a Senate Republican aide briefed on the conversation.
McConnell, accusing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of engaging in "hysterics" on Thursday night, said the governing majority should not "ask for my help" again.
The Republican's whining referred to brief remarks Schumer delivered last week, taking GOP senators to task for playing "a dangerous and risky partisan game." This, evidently, hurt Republicans' feelings, and precipitated McConnell's newest warning to the White House.
It's possible that McConnell is such a snowflake that Schumer's mild-and-accurate rebuke derailed the prospects of future negotiations. It's also possible that McConnell, feeling pressure from his own members, was looking for a pretext to be even less cooperative in the future, and Schumer's comments did the trick.
It's also worth pausing to appreciate the inherent absurdity of a hostage taker thinking he's "helped" by giving the victims of his scheme more time to pay a ransom.
Regardless, the bottom line is inescapable: Republicans are ensuring that their next debt-ceiling crisis will be considerably worse than the last. Democrats will almost certainly have to decide between scrapping debt-ceiling filibusters and following the precise instructions that GOP leaders are commanding the governing majority to follow.