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Is There a Thaw in the Budget Fight? And, If So, What Was That About?!!?

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I hung about on the Larry Kudlow Show last night and we spent the whole show talking about the status of the shutdown and debt ceiling (and the relief rally in the markets yesterday-here's one link). The plates of the debate seem to be shifting in ways that could be positive, though virtually all the signals are mixed.

No point in going into great detail since things could quickly change course, but a few notes to consider.

-- The House Republicans went to the White House with an offer for a clean, short-term debt ceiling extension, but the president did not appear to accept the deal, as he and Reid continue to strongly advocate for a clean debt ceiling increase and a re-fund-the-government bill.

-- So did the Republicans storm out and complain that the White House won't negotiate? Not at all.

In statements afterward that struck the most positive tone in weeks of acrimony, House Republicans described their hour-and-a-half-long meeting with Mr. Obama as "a useful and productive conversation," while the White House described "a good meeting," though "no specific determination was made" about the Republicans' offer. Both agreed to continue talks through the night.

-- Larry K interviewed Rep. Steve Scalise, a Tea Party lieutenant who's been a vicious opponent of Obamacare. But he's morphed from tiger to pussycat, suggesting that maybe some changes to the health care law could be part of deal... you know... whatever...

-- Various Republicans and other conservative commentators on the show suggested that they're ready to conference with Democrats on the budget.

-- There is an increasing awareness that the polls are turning sharply against the Republicans on all this obstructionism (and even maybe helping Obama); also, the strong reaction of the financial markets yesterday did not go unnoticed.

-- Rep Lynn Jenkins, Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference was also on and said, "Opening the government is a negotiation that will happen tonight and in the hours ahead, and we hope to have it open by Monday night." I wouldn't take that to the bank, but... there it is.

So, there's at least a decent chance that Congress could negotiate clean bills for the CR and debt ceiling over the next few days. All of which leads one to ask:

Huh?

What the XXX was that all about?!? Sen Cruz got the extremists all fired up on this mission impossible to repeal Obamacare, they shut the government down, threatened default, and now it's: hey, let's have a budget conference! (Something Senate Democrats have been calling for for six months, btw.)

It's like Marc Thiessen said the other day: it's the Seinfeld Shutdown. The shutdown about... who knows? The Republicans don't really know what they want -- last I heard they're back to sweeping fiscal concerns, though even that may be too precise. Boehner said today he wants to sit down with the president "... to start to deal with America's pressing problems."

Hey, go for it, dude.

In fact, what I think they -- the Republicans leadership and increasing troop numbers -- may really want is to get the hell out of this mess they created. Godspeed.

This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.