The government shutdown is four days old and shows no sign of concluding anytime soon. This is partially because one of the shutdown's main players, Speaker of the House John Boehner, has only a loose plan to end this conflict.
"We are locked in an epic battle," Boehner told Republicans during a closed door meeting Friday morning, according to The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker. He was trying to rally the troops, or at least put a bandage on morale that's very publicly plummeting. "Hang tough," he said, channelling a high school sports coach getting his team through a game in which they are clearly outmatched.
Because, really, this shutdown is going to last at least until the U.S. is about to reach the debt limit, and that's when Boehner plans to strike:
They are only trying to survive another day, Republican strategists say, hoping to maintain unity as long as possible so that when the Republican position collapses, they can capitulate on two issues at once — financing the government and raising the debt ceiling — and head off any internal party backlash. Republican lawmakers say Mr. Boehner has assured them privately that he will not permit a default.
The Times reports Boehner has refused to bring a clean spending bill to the floor because internal party backlash might lead to certain party members not voting to raise the debt ceiling. That result would be catastrophic for the country, not just Congressional Republicans. Boehner knows he's in a losing fight so he's trying to sustain as little damage as possible. "It’s common-sense strategy," one GOP strategist told the Times. "If you’re going to take a bullet, you want to take just one."
So, this fight isn't going to wrap up with a weekend agreement over brunch, is the message here. We're in it for the long haul. The shutdown will likely roll into the debt limit fight. The likely deal Republicans will put forward isn't quite as ridiculous as their ridiculous first offer, but it's still pretty demanding, The National Review's Robert Costa reported Friday afternoon:
There will be a “mechanism” for revenue-neutral tax reform, ushered by Ryan and Michigan’s Dave Camp, that will encourage deeper congressional talks in the coming year. There will be entitlement-reform proposals, most likely chained CPI and means testing Medicare; there will also be some health-care provisions, such as a repeal of the medical-device tax, which has bipartisan support in both chambers.
Whether this deal will pass in unclear. Republicans are still debating whether or not they should include even more demands, like approving the Keystone pipeline, to the deal. That strategy -- give us everything or we'll push the country or the cliff -- didn't win very much support when they debuted it the first time.