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GOP’s fatal leadership failure: The real story behind the shutdown

In less than 12 hours, the federal government will run out of money. The fiscal year ends tonight at midnight and Congress has yet to pass legislation to extend its lapsing funds.

If you've come to know Congress as a lumbering behemoth that takes months to do what a more nimble institution could pull off in days, you might reasonably conclude that a shutdown of some length is at this point inevitable -- that even if Congress settled on an agreeable plan this afternoon, there wouldn't be enough time to pass it.

But that's not true, at least not in this case. There is ample time for the Senate and House to extend government spending before 12:00 a.m., and majorities in both chambers actually support a plan to do so, without making appropriations a vehicle for extraneous partisan policy demands, and without creating any further drama.

But still, a shutdown might happen. If it does, it will represent an admission by House Speaker John Boehner that the right wing of the Republican party is too unruly for a person of his temperament to lead, and too powerful for a person of his character to ignore. He will be giving them the shutdown they demand, either to call their bluff, or to guard against being ousted from his Speakership, or maybe a bit of both.

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