Hanging Tough Against Extremism

We already know the next two acts of this drama. The Senate will refuse to accept the latest disingenuous House offer of allowing temporary government funding in exchange for a one-year delay in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Barring a miracle, the government will then be forced to cease all non-emergency operations as of midnight tonight.

We also know that at some point, the government will have to re-open, and that Republicans will have to relent on their fantasy of destroying Obamacare. The Republicans picked the president's signature achievement, the one issue on which he can't be rolled. But what will be their price for allowing the government to function?

On budget issues, President Obama has a very unfortunate history of needless cave-ins, most recently in the "fiscal cliff" deal of last January, when all of the Bush tax cuts were scheduled to expire. Obama had most of the leverage, because if Congress did nothing, taxes would increase on everyone. In that bargaining, he settled for very modest tax hikes on the richest, but allowed Social Security taxes on working people to rise by two full percentage points. The bargain was such a windfall for Republicans that Grover Norquist, the enforcer of the no-tax-hike-pledge, quietly urged Republicans to take the deal.

What will happen this time? Republicans, in their besotted zeal, have thrown one demand after another into the stew.

Late last week, the list included: Allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to proceed; fast-track authority to slash taxes; more unregulated offshore oil and gas production; more energy exploration on federal lands; roll back regulations on coal ash; reverse EPA regulations on greenhouse gas production; eliminate a $23 billion for orderly dissolution of failed major banks; cut funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limit medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for Medicare.

This Christmas-in-September wish list was withdrawn, temporarily, in favor of the "last-chance" offer that the House Republicans sent to the Senate to keep government open in exchange for "only" a one-year delay in ObamaCare.

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