Put budget issues to vote in House; Up-or-down vote may end shutdown

More than a week into what Sen. Rand Paul called the "temporary inconveniences" of a government shutdown and eight days from the deadline for raising the debt ceiling, Republican demands are growing ever murkier and more confusing.

In his missives to constituents, Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington keeps railing against Obamacare, even though House Speaker John Boehner seems to have abandoned the GOP quest to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act in favor of demanding spending cuts.

Boehner has reportedly said in private that he won't allow a default, but in public he insists that the House won't raise the debt ceiling unless President Barack Obama negotiates, presumably on budget cuts that would go deeper than those imposed by the sequester.

Obama says he'll negotiate as soon as the Republicans stop holding the country and economy hostage by refusing to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling to pay expenses Congress has already approved.

Largely lost in the commotion, the Democratic Senate has approved temporarily extending the sequester cuts, a concession Republicans could have claimed as a victory.

Meanwhile, Paul has joined the GOP's magical-thinking caucus, suddenly insisting that failure to raise the debt ceiling wouldn't really be a default or even that big of a deal.

Paul's view, we should stress, is not shared by economists, credit rating agencies or foreign governments, all of whom see failure to raise the debt ceiling as a precursor to global depression.

Perhaps Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., best summed up Republican thinking when he said, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

So, the challenge is coming up with a special "something" that will satisfy that segment of House Republicans who couldn't wait to shut down the government and who now are passing bills right and left to fund whichever government agency produced the latest sad story or outrage in their local media.

Enter Kentuckian Rep. Hal Rogers, a 32-year congressional veteran and Appropriations Committee chairman, who by now must have just about bitten his tongue in half trying to deal with some of his junior GOP colleagues.

Rogers is championing creation of a conference committee — another super committee — to negotiate a debt ceiling increase.

"The purpose of the bill is to create a place, an avenue to get together with the White House and the Senate," Rogers told the publication The Hill, adding "the Senate is refusing to talk and work out a solution to the imminent problems that we are into,"

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's senior senator, was urging the Supreme Court to end any and all limits on campaign contributions.

Speaking of which, Republicans must be hearing from their traditional donors who can't be happy about this cavalier attitude toward wrecking the economy.

If Rogers and others can't devise a face-saving way out for Republicans, the House should take an up-or-down vote on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.

Boehner is refusing to allow such a vote because he says it would fail. But some observers think enough Republicans would vote with Democrats to end this impasse.

An up-or-down vote is the surest way to settle that disagreement and maybe even put the country back on track.