High drama in Washington. It's the sort of political theatre that is enormously riveting. Congress is tossing about a ticking time bomb - supposedly - the US federal debt ceiling. Either the Republicans and Democrats reach a deal or the American government defaults - supposedly - and Western civilization collapses in ruin.
The Republican leadership in the House thought they had a clever offer only to discover the Hezbollah contingent of Tea Party GOPers refused to go along pretty much with anything. They seem stuck on "no" but, of course, appearances can be deceiving. This might actually be a Republican ploy to make the Senate Dems frightened and grateful for anything the Repugs finally put on the table, no matter how awful.
If I was a Repug I'd know that will probably work. The Dems are pussies. They fold under pressure and the Republicans have learned how to maul them until they bleed. Obama - pretty much the same. Apparently he brought his ego from Chicago but left his courage behind.
That's one scenario. The Repugs are ratcheting up the pressure on the Dems until it becomes unbearable. That, of course, assumes this is all a carefully staged, tightly scripted performance by the Republican House leadership.
Then again. This could be an indication of a terminal fracture in the Republican ranks, an in-house Tea Party insurrection aimed at sweeping the Old Guard aside to facilitate a takeover by the radicals. Boehner does seem to be worried that his own political fortunes depend on appeasing the irrational right.
Recent polls seem to suggest the American public sees the debt ceiling standoff as more the doing of the Repubs than the Dems. If the Republicans sense they're going to have to wear the fallout of a federal default, the sane bunch could be vulnerable to a wedge offer by Senate Democrats. After all, Boehner can't get a Republican bill through the House yet the Dems can get their alternative through the Senate. And, with enough House Republican support, the Democratic proposal could actually make it to Obama's desk.
My guess is that the Tea Party contingent are crazy but not quite suicidal. They'll want the Republicans to have at least some debt ceiling relief bill on the table although they'll expect something far more onerous than Boehner's original attempt. Even then they may keep their tantrum raging for another day or two. An 11th hour, "take it or leave it" bill with no time left to negotiate further compromise, a bill that makes Obama wear the debt so deliberately crafted by the Republicans under Bush II, would suit their purposes perfectly.
For this isn't about debt or the solvency of America or protecting America's economy and their constituents' livelihoods. This is about somebody else having to take the blame for the gross malfeasance of the Republican Congress and White House during the reign of Bush the Dimmer. This is about preserving those tax cuts for the rich into perpetuity and sticking working class Americans and their kids and their grandkids with the bill while cutting their "entitlements."
This could just be the creation of a true American aristocracy and, worse, a true American peasantry.
UPDATE - The New York Times columnist Ross Douhat suggests sane Republicans may want Boehner's House debt plan to fail - for their own sake.