* The White House sees cause for optimism in the House GOP decision to yank the transportation bill, because it may signal an acknowledgement by Republicans that they aren’t willing to actually cut spending at sequester levels. You’d think that would change things, but…

* Why did Mitch McConnell work so hard to defeat the Senate transportation bill (against Susan Collins, a major proponent) by filibuster today? This is suggestive:

Asked if McConnell’s upcoming primary fight with a tea party challenger might have something to do with the pressure, Collins told POLITICO: “I can’t speculate on why. All I can tell you is he has never worked harder against a member of his own party than he did against me today.”

* Relatedly, this Tweet, from Kentucky writer Joe Sonka, nails it:

Remarkable just how big of a bear hug McConnell gave sequestration today… Sounds like he wants to own it. #kysen

* Jonathan Cohn has a nice piece laying out six reasons young people will go for Obamacare. Remember, opponents of the law are working overtime to discourage this, in hopes of driving up premiums and making the law fail. #SabotageGoverning

* An excellent E.J. Dionne column on what’s really driving the evolution of public opinion on gay marriage. This, from a Third Way poll Dionne cites, is key:

58 percent said gay men and lesbians wanted to join the institution and only 27 percent said they were looking to change it. This suggests that an increasing number of Americans reject the culture-war frame when it comes to gay marriage, and that fewer and fewer see it as threatening their own values.

This could have major ramifications as the battle continues in the states, where opponents of marriage equality will continue making a culture war and religion based argument.

* House Republicans are drafting a bill that would double the cuts to the food stamp program, to $40 billion, to win over conservatives. The goal is to move ever further to the right, to pass a GOP-only bill, after Republicans blamed Dems for failing to help them pass the last one.

* Steve Benen makes a good case for why immigration reform proponents shouldn’t expect Paul Ryan to perform any miracles. And Steve makes the point that can’t be repeated enough:

It’s frustrating, but the fate of immigration reform largely comes down to one person: House Speaker John Boehner. And as of now, he’s too weak, cowed, and confused to do much of anything.

* George Zornick reports that Harry Reid told gun reform advocates that they can expect another Senate vote on expanded background checks next year. Good. Advocates need to show they can keep folks engaged on the issue.

* As Jennifer Rubin rightly notes, the push by Ted Cruz and other conservatives for an epic defund-Obamacare showdown is really little more than a cheap fundraising gimmick.

* Also see Jed Lewison, who makes a good case that this is really just a fundraising and 2016 political positioning con job, one heavily dependent on the fact that much of the GOP base is getting hoodwinked into believing defunding is a real possibility.

I’d only add that the GOP leadership, by refusing to shoot this down, is helping to keep the ruse alive.

* Cory Booker, who may be the next Senator from New Jersey, comes out against Chained CPI and for expanding Social Security, a position pushed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and other liberal groups.

* But Digby makes the case for Dem Rep. Rush Holt as the real civil libertarian and progressive in the Jersey Senate race.

* And political scientist Brendan Nyhan takes a hard look at the coverage and finds the media loved covering the IRS story when it was a scandal, but suddenly didn’t care so much about it when the scandal fell apart.