If given truth serum, most House and Republican leaders would agree with the following:
1. The shutdown is more trouble than it is worth, and they don’t relish keeping the government shut down for weeks and weeks. How they get rid of it without causing a revolt in their ranks (or with enough votes to ignore the revolt) is unknown. They will vamp for now.
2. The GOP is not agreeing to tax hikes, and President Obama is not agreeing to defund or delay Obamacare. They might be able to make deals around the edges of these issues (e.g. medical-device tax repeal, revenue-neutral tax reform).
3. Entitlement reform, if any, will be discrete and symbolic. A chained consumer price index, for example, isn’t worth a lot of savings but it is a breakthrough of sorts. Don’t think Medicaid block granting, for example, is going to get done here.
4. It makes sense to lighten up on the sequestration caps in exchange for potentially more far-reaching entitlement reforms. However, there is a political problem: Hardline conservatives don’t want to touch the sequester, and Democrats don’t want to do entitlement reform.
5. At some point, something passable will need Democratic votes. That, ironically, is a function of the House and Senate shutdown advocates who remove themselves from any “yes” column, forcing leadership to go to Democrats for the needed votes.
6. House leadership really has no direction from members on the content of any debt-ceiling deal. That’s a good thing! Leadership will be unable to negotiate anything if it must come back and face the crazies in the House after every offer and counteroffer.
7. Given the angst over this shutdown and the debt-ceiling limit, GOP leaders may be willing to give the president a longer debt-ceiling extension in a final deal in exchange for something conservatives regard as a “win.”
8. In a sense, the speaker was right on the shutdown. It wasn’t the time to stage the knock-down, drag-out fight with the right-wingers. When he goes back to the House with an agreement (if he gets one) the hardliners are, in all likelihood, going to revolt; it’s then that he’ll need to go to Democrats.
9. They understand that the president isn’t on the ballot in 2014 and they are. They don’t entirely buy the “We’re getting killed, but he is too” justification for the shutdown.
10. They really do understand how unpopular the shutdown is. They read more polls than you do.