Cracks have begun to appear in the icy divide that has frozen Congress in a tableau of dysfunction and put the nation's good faith and credit at risk. After 11 days of government shutdown and obstinate sound bites, there were hopeful signs Thursdayof a way forward. House Speaker John Boehner should seize the moment to end this destructive impasse.
Among the good signs, Republicans appear ready to drop their demand for unobtainable changes in Obamacare. President Barack Obama, welcoming the thaw, would accept a temporary funding resolution and debt-ceiling increase, rather than insist on long-term measures. Rep. Paul Ryan, the influential chairman of the House Budget Committee, began pushing a post-crisis agenda of tax and Medicare reform. That's a discussion Obama and Democrats said they'd be happy to have. Obama even had Republicans over to the White House.
But just when it seemed that frosty relations were warming, Boehner threw cold water into the mix. His proposal yesterday for a six-week extension of the debt ceiling, accompanied by budget negotiations -- but without reopening the government -- isn't enough to end this GOP-generated crisis. Obama predictably rejected it.
The offer to enable Washington to pay its bills for a few more weeks is a welcome sign that many Republicans understand driving the federal government into default would be a foolish hit to the economy. That's progress. But Boehner should allow a House vote to raise the debt limit and reopen the government, no strings attached. That would end this crisis and open the door to negotiations on entitlement and tax reform, the real keys to deficit reduction.
Dissing tea party members who seem to relish the idea of default could cost Boehner his job as speaker. But that brand of cold-eyed leadership is what the nation needs.