The outline of the emerging Senate deal is this: The government is funded until Jan. 15. The debt ceiling is lifted until Feb. 7. There are a handful of small Affordable Care Act changes: Stronger income verification, which Republicans want, and a one-year delay on the reinsurance tax, which Democrats want.
Oh, and there's a bicameral budget committee that needs to report back by Dec. 13.
The timing of all this is designed to create a fight about sequestration. The Jan. 15 deadline means funding for the federal government runs out at the exact moment sequestration's deeper cuts kick in. The Dec. 13 deadline means that the full House and Senate would have time to consider any package of recommendations the bicameral committee comes up with, if the committee actually manages to come up with anything.
The deal isn't official yet. It hasn't passed the Senate yet. And it certainly hasn't passed the House yet. But if it does clear those hurdles -- and, again, that's a big if -- it'll mean Republicans and Democrats have agreed to take what began as a fight over the Affordable Care Act and make it into a fight over sequestration.
That's what the Democrats want. It's also what some Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan and Grover Norquist want. But it's not been what the Ted Cruz wing of the Republican Party wants. The question now is how much pull they really have. This, from Robert Costa, suggests the answer might be "less than they did a few weeks ago":