A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that a solid majority of Americans — 56 percent — believe that the Republican Party has been “too inflexible in dealing with President Obama.” Only 19 percent say the GOP has gotten the balance right, and 18 percent say the GOP has been too quick to give in (you have to wonder what, in the minds of those diehards, would constitute sufficient opposition). Sixty seven percent say Republicans are emphasizing a “partisan approach,” versus 48 percent who say that about Obama.

Meanwhile, the poll finds that 51 percent think Republicans should stop trying to block the Affordable Care Act, versus only 45 percent who think they should keep trying to prevent it from going into effect. This, even though the poll also finds that a plurality think the law is a bad idea. As I suggested yesterday, dissatisfaction with the law does not necessarily translate into public support for GOP efforts to block implementation of it.

Naturally, with public opinion pretty clear on the desire for more GOP cooperation with Obama and Dems — is it a stretch to suggest the public wants an end to GOP “sabotage governing“? — Republican leaders are preparing for a massive confrontation around the debt limit and government shutdown deadlines, one that of course centers on Obamacare. The New York Times has an overview of the emerging GOP priorities and game plan, and they are not pretty. In the House, Republicans are “moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation.” In the Senate, a bloc of hard right lawmakers is vowing to oppose continued funding for the government if Obamacare is not stripped of its funding, too:

Taken together, efforts in both chambers amount to some of the most serious cuts to domestic spending since the Republicans in 1995 tried to shutter the departments of Energy, Education and Commerce — and ended up shutting the government down for 28 days.
“It’s about time we cut some spending around here,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

That last quote from Ryan perfectly captures what Democrats are up against. Dems already agreed to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts in 2011 (more than twice what Republicans have agreed to in new taxes). Indeed, in 2011, Paul Ryan himself boasted that the cuts Dems accepted proved Republicans had changed the “culture.” Meanwhile, Dems right now continue to offer Republicans still more spending cuts, including to entitlements — in exchange for (gasp!) concessions from Republicans. Oh, and the deficit continues to fall, too.

But since many conservative lawmakers will apparently never even acknowledge these basic realities — and won’t concede anything in new taxes, even in exchange for more in spending cuts — we’re probably headed for another crisis. It is often observed that the parties are “far apart” on basic questions about the proper spending levels and size and role of government. That’s true, but perhaps the greater cause of gridlock and dysfunction may be that Republicans won’t even acknowledge what Dems have already conceded to them, and what Obama and Dems remain willing to concede (indeed, this willingness continues to anger the left). The greater difference here is over reality itself.

All of that is well established for anyone who’s paying attention to what’s actually happening. But what to do about it? Dems can only hope that last week’s GOP filibuster cave has revealed that there is a growing bloc of Republicans in the Senate who recognizes that the current GOP posture can’t sustain itself forever. As Brian Beutler details nicely, there is a genuine possibility that an emerging bipartisan “governing coalition” in the Senate could ultimately force.the House GOP to back down on the debt limit and possibly replacing the sequester as well.

While today’s NBC/WSJ polling shows Obama’s approval is down — perhaps sapping him of leverage — it also suggests public opinion will be sharply tilted against House Republicans if we see another major confrontation. Whether that will matter to House Republicans, given their safe districts and supposedly invulnerable majority, is another matter. But the question continues to remain: How much longer can the GOP sustain its sabotage governing posture? Is there a point at which it this will come to matter in political terms?

* MCCONNELL MAY BE LOSING CONTROL OF CAUCUS: Related to the above: The leader of the Senate GOP is struggling to prevent Republican Senators from defecting from the leadership and supporting a transportation and housing bill; yesterday 19 Republicans supported a procedural motion to move it forward.

This bill — which McConnell opposes over spending levels — is regarded by Dems as a test case as to whether a bloc of Republicans will continue to break with the leadership and the Tea Party to engage with Dems in basic governing compromises. If enough Republicans help break the GOP filibuster on an upcoming vote to end debate, it could suggest GOP divisions will persist into this fall’s spending fights.

* GOP SENATORS OPEN TO COMPROMISE: Roll Call also has a good overview of the coming battles over spending and whether they will result in a schism among Senate Republicans that may play to Dems’ advantage. Note this:

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., also said he is interested in a deal: “I would gladly swap sequester if we get entitlement reform. That’s the way you change sequester.”

It’s anyone’s guess what Republicans will ask for and whether any “governing coalition” really can hold, but Dems will continue to try to encourage this.

* GOP LEADERS CONDEMN STEVE KING: John Boehner and Eric Cantor put out statements late yesterday condemning GOP Rep. Steve King’s widely noted claim that the vast majority of DREAMers are hauling marijuana into our country. GOP leaders recognizes the need to project compassion amid the immigration debate; the politics of immigration are in fact putting pressure on them, despite pundit proclamations to the contrary.

If Boehner wants to make this nightmare go away, the Speaker is going to have to try to pass immigration reform. Unfortunately for his party, the weight falls on Boehner’s shoulders, and he may not be up to the task.

Yes. There are several scenarios under which immigration reform can pass the House, and any one of them can happen if Boehner wants them to.

* CONCERNS RISE ABOUT NSA SURVEILLANCE: A new Post poll finds rising public worries about the NSA surveillance programs:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the NSA programs are infringing on some Americans’ privacy rights, and about half see those programs as encroaching on their own privacy. Most of those who see the programs as compromising privacy say the intrusions are unjustified.

This comes as the House is embroiled in a major confrontation with the White House over a bill that would block the NSA gathering of telephone records without suspicion of a crime. This push appears to be uniting a minority of civil-liberties-minded Republicans and Dems against Congressional leaders in both parties.


* Former GOP Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott tells the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Theodore Schleifer that he would allow a vote on the Senate immigration bill if he were in Boehner’s place — even if it meant losing his job. It’ll be interesting to see whether more Republicans speak out in this manner if Boehner faces this choice.

Mitch McConnell is up with his first ad against his Tea Party challenger. (fixed)

Daniel Gross argues that in his series of speeches on the economy, Obama should give some attention to lagging wages and how that’s playing a major role in holding back growth.