A number of people are pointing to a telling behind the scenes moment , where House Republicans applauded John Boehner for saying that a government shutdown is imminent:

House Republicans huddled late Monday and, according to a GOP aide, gave the speaker an ovation when he informed them that he was advising the House Administration Committee to begin preparing for a possible shutdown. That process includes alerting lawmakers and senior staff about which employees would not report to work if no agreement is reached.

Democrats are pointing to this as proof that House Republicans are rooting for a shutdown, but I think this suggests something more interesting about what’s really going on here. Specifically, the closer Boehner brings us to the brink of a shutdown now, the easier it will be for him to sell any eventual compromise to conservatives later.

If a compromise is reached, Boehner can credibly tell conservatives in his caucus that by allowing the threat of a shutdown to loom as large as possible, for as long as possible, he did all that was humanly within reach to extract maximum concessions from Democrats. After all, it’s widely known that the White House does not want a shutdown, because it will hamper the recovery and because Obama is hoping to preside over a deal, just as he did on tax cuts, in the quest for independent voters.

By bringing us to the brink of a shutdown, Boehner gives himself a way to argue to conservatives that he applied maximum pressure on the White House to force Dems to agree to real cuts.

Republicans will argue that Chuck Schumer, too, wants a shutdown, on the theory that it helps Democrats. I don’t know if this is true or not, but either way, Boehner is the one who is under pressure from his base to be willing to shut down the government if Republicans don’t get their way in the standoff. Whatever Schumer really wants, the bottom line is that he’s under no such pressure. Boehner, however, is under such pressure. If he can create the impression that he brought us to the brink, conservatives in the end might be a bit more willing to accept the concessions he did win.