Democrats are both annoyed and amused this morning by an Op ed John Boehner published in an Ohio paper, in which he made the startling demand that the fiscal cliff talks be broadened to include ... Obamacare. From the Op ed:

The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy. We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.

Though Republicans want full repeal, this seems to suggest that Boehner wants mere changes to Obamacare to be on the table during the fiscal cliff talks. That’s why he says “we can’t afford to leave it intact.”

Now, obviously, this is going to be a non-starter for Dems, and Boehner has no way of delivering on it. So why make the suggestion at all? Remember, Boehner recently acknowledged that Obamacare is “the law of the land.” Dems took that as a sign that Boehner was subtly letting the Tea Party wing of the GOP that they needed to accept the verdict of the election and cooperate with Dems in the deficit talks. But Boehner quickly backtracked, Tweeting: “Our goal has been, and will remain, full repeal.”

In that context, this latest could be another sop to the Tea Party — reassurance to the Tea Partyers who are soon going to be asked to accept some very uncomfortable compromises on the fiscal cliff that, don’t worry, really, seriously, the GOP leadership still has Obamacare in the crosshairs! But Dems see a serious side to this. One Dem I spoke to worried that the mere fact that Boehner still has to throw sops like this to the Tea Party wing means he feels more beholden to them than Dems had hoped — which wouldn’t bode well for the talks.

Of course, it’s just as likely that it’s a whole lot of B.S.