* What are Dems prepared to trade away? There’s no way around it: Republicans have won the political war over the debt ceiling. The House is set to vote today on a proposal for a debt ceiling hike without any spending cuts attached. It will be rejected — the GOP is unified against it, and even some Democrats will vote No. This is the “clean” vote Dems originally sought, but it’s now clear that Dems think it’s politically impossible not to accede to the GOP demand for deep cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

And so, with the Biden-led deficit negotiations set to resume this week, Mitch McConnell has now begun insisting that big Medicare cuts will be necessary in exchange for GOP support for the debt ceiling hike. Thanks to their willingness to draw a hard line at the outset, Republicans now appear poised to win big concessions in exchange for supporting something that they and everyone else have already said is inevitable.

As I reported on Friday, some Dems are insisting that there will be no Democratic support for any reductions in Medicare benefits in the Biden-negotiated compromise. But it may be too late for Dems to draw any hard lines. It’s unclear whether Dems will hold fast behind this vow and how it can be squared with the GOP’s insistence on deep cuts in exchange for the debt ceiling hike and with the obvious Dem eagerness to reach a deal. This is the dynamic to watch this week.

* Is it a hostage situation, or a “grand bargain”? Relatedly, Jon Chait on the absurdity of McConnell’s demand for deep Medicare cuts or else even as he’s asking Obama to join him in a grand bargain for the good of both parties.

* Obama advisers nudging him to pull out of Afghanistan: An important story in the Post: The President’s civilian advisers are quietly sounding the alarm about the out-of-control costs of the war, a hint that they’re trying to up the pressure from the inside on Obama to draw down the scope of operations.

* Dem candidates around the country gain confidence: One interesting side effect of the big Dem victory in NY-26: It’s persuading Dem candidates around the country that Medicare is a killer for Republicans, and getting them to take the plunge.

* House GOPer concedes Ryan plan could cost GOP the majority: A telling quote from GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey:

“To back away from this or to get skittish for fear of losing a few seats or even the majority would be pretty darn irresponsible,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) told The Hill.

* Conservative columnist to GOP: Show flexibility on Ryan plan:It takes some work to ferret it out, but the real news in former Bushie Michael Gerson’s column this morning is that he’s urging Republicans to recognize that the Ryan plan, as is, is a non-starter with voters.

* Meet Paul Ryan’s Dem challenger: Businessman Rob Zerban thinks he’s got a chance at unseating Ryan, now that he’s become the public face of the GOP plan to end Medicare as we know it.

* Beltway media internalizes GOP “Mediscare” claims: Steve Benen says it’s time for the commentariat to stop reflexively repeating that Dems are lying when they point out that Republicans do, in fact, want to end Medicare:

It’s exasperating, but it’s worth reemphasizing what too many establishment types simply refuse to understand: Democrats are telling the truth. Indeed, Dems are doing what the media is reluctant to do: offering an accurate assessment of the Republican plan for Medicare. If voters find the GOP proposal frightening, the problem is with the plan, not with Democrats’ rhetoric.

* The Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop has ensnared us all: Paul Krugman on how commentators are complicit in allowing job creation to completely vanish from the conversation. Also note Krugman’s concept of pundit “learned helplessness”on this score.

* Conservative bloggers find another big scandal! Dem Rep. Anthony Weiner retains counsel to deal with a lewd photo that turned up on his Twitter feed, which he claims have been hacked. But right wing bloggers aren’t letting up! Surely mass resignations are right around the corner.

* Sarah Palin already preparing her excuse for not running in 2012? Sources close to Palin leak that she’s worried that it might not be logisticially possible for her large family to spend months on the campaign trail. Yeah, okay.

* And Michele Bachmann is set to end our suspense: Millions of Americans grind their teeth with anticipation as Bachmann indicates she’s “very close” to announcing whether she’ll launch a bid for president that would have no chance whatsoever at succeeding.

What else is happening?