Look ye now upon the most predictable fundraising e-mail of 2011: The DCCC, capitalizing on the House GOP's FEMA funding snafu.
Extremist Tea Party Republicans are bringing our government to the brink of shutdown again in a brazen ploy to advance their extremist agenda.
Meanwhile, Democrats are working hard to make sure that we don’t just do the bare minimum and keep the government running, but that we also secure critical funding for disaster relief and job creation.
The contrast between our Democratic values and the Tea Party’s cynical partisanship has never been clearer -- but unless we have the resources to fight back against the Tea Party disinformation campaign, most Americans won’t ever hear about it.
... The Tea Party would rather see millions put out of work by a government shut down than have to compromise on job creation and disaster relief. It’s shameful.
And so on. This was all telegraphed weeks ago, when ThinkProgress and TPM played ping-pong with Eric Cantor's office over this question of whether emergency spending for Irene relief would come with offsets, giving Congress the choice of cuts-for-aid or nothing at all. I was too-easily spun by the Republican argument of the time -- that this was much ado about a hypothetical question. Right now, Harry Reid is demanding a clean funding bill (we can assume the pay-fors will be slotted into a less controversial, must-pass bill, at some later date), and Boehner is explaining the problem to conservatives this way: "what they're in essense doing is they're voting to spend more money."
When this first arose as a problem, I wondered why Republicans didn't just settle for a Democratic idea from the 2005 fight over Katrina funding: Getting rid of some small tax break. Actually, I didn't wonder, because Republicans oppose tax hikes, but I asked Cantor's spokesman, Brad Dayspring, anyway. "These are hypotheticals," he said, "that is the point."
We can boil this down. There never was supposed to be a "hostage situation" because Republicans were going to agree to some level of funding, with cuts, and push it through, fulfilling both their obligation and their promise. But they got outplayed by Senate Democrats, who have introduced a larger funding bill with no cuts, casting Republicans -- this is getting to be a pattern -- as hostage takers. It was completely predictable, which is why few people thought it would actually happen like this.