With the deadline for a government shutdown now just 16 hours away, there's a dirty little secret that hasn't received as much attention as it deserves: there's an obvious solution that enjoys the support of the White House, a majority of the Senate, and a majority of the House. It's not going anywhere, however, because House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is too afraid of the idea.
It came up briefly yesterday on "Meet the Press" when Dee Dee Myers asked Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) a good question. So what's the endgame, though, congressman?" Myers said. "Are you willing to vote for a continued resolution that comes back [to the House] that does not delay or defund Obamacare?"
"I am not, but I think there's enough people in the Republican Party who are willing to do that," the far-right congressman responded.
And there it is: the obvious resolution. A temporary budget bill (or "continuing resolution") that keeps current spending levels in place, and leaves the federal health care system alone, has already been approved by the Senate. The White House has said President Obama would sign it. And if it came to the House floor for a vote, it'd probably get a majority there, too, ending the threat of a shutdown.
So why doesn't the House GOP leadership just take the obvious step and allow the House to vote on the Senate bill? Boehner may yet do exactly that -- like I said, there are still 16 hours to go -- but he's balked up until now because he insists on placating his far-right members.
We're on the brink of another shutdown, in other words, because Boehner is a weak Speaker who has allowed extremists to push him around -- and push us to another Republican-imposed crisis.
There was also this from the Hill yesterday:
House Republicans, who insisted that they had passed a compromise over the weekend that would avoid a shutdown if only the Senate would act, blamed Mr. Reid for purposely running out the clock.
Ah yes, a "compromise." The House GOP unanimously approved a measure that would strip millions of Americans of their health care benefits for a year, while blocking access to contraception for much of the public. Republicans then told the Senate to pass this or they'd shut down the government -- and this is, in their strange minds, a "compromise."
As for what to expect over the next few hours, this paragraph also jumped out at me.
Republican lawmakers said on Sunday that the House leadership had one more card to play, but that it was extremely delicate. They can tell Mr. Reid he must accept a face-saving measure, like the repeal of the tax on medical devices, which many Democrats support, or they will send back a new amendment that would force members of Congress and their staffs, and the White House staff, to buy their medical insurance on the new health law's insurance exchanges, without any subsidies from the government to offset the cost.
We can get into the particulars of this later, but for now, put aside the trees and look at the forest: Republicans are saying they're prepared to shut down the government unless Democrats agree to undermine the health care law in some way. Even if it's just a small change, GOP lawmakers want to chip off something from "Obamacare."
It doesn't matter if the concession achieves no policy goals. It doesn't matter if it helps or hurts anyone. It doesn't matter if it solves or exacerbates an existing problem. They just want to say they took something away from the Affordable Care Act.
And why, pray tell, would they be so obsessed? Because House Republicans are spoiled children who no longer feel the need to maintain the pretense that they care about policy or governing.
As CNBC's John Harwood noted this morning, the House GOP position is "disconnected from any rational policy goal." Harwood accurately characterized it as a "primal scream."