Victory for the Republicans?

Capitol building, Washington Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The stalemate has inflamed opinions on all sides

Washington's Eastern Market is famous for its seafood snacks and the man behind the counter has a fine voice to bellow the orders above the clatter.

"One crab-cake sandwich, no tomato!" he booms. He doesn't adjust the volume when I ask him about the wrangling on Capitol Hill, just a stone's throw away.

"It's DISGUSTING, President Obama should enact the 14th amendment and overrule these IDIOTS!" he yells.

That is one thing the White House has ruled out: using controversial powers to simply raise the debt ceiling without the approval of Congress.

Not because it can't be done, but because of how it would look. Because I suspect we are hours away from the blame game, and analysis of who has won and who has lost.

Some sort of deal between the White House and Republican leaders in the House and Senate seems close. All the irritating and apparently pointless votes of the past few days have been played out. But it was more than the politicians getting it out of their system. It has tested various ideas to destruction.

According to the Washington Post what is emerging from talks looks more like the plan of the speaker of the house, John Boehner, than anything else.

"The emerging agreement calls for raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit by up to $2.4 trillion in two stages, with the debt limit rising unless two-thirds of both chambers of Congress disapprove, according to officials in both parties familiar with the talks," says the Post.

I suspect the difficult thing will not be the leaders sealing a deal but selling it to Republicans in the House, and perhaps Democrats in the Senate. After the agony of getting his plan past his own hardliners, Mr Boehner knows all the demands and bottom lines well.

The sort of deal we seem to be looking at is, objectively a victory of the Republicans.

The Democrats take a lot of pain and can only hope to avoid the worst political damage. But the Tea Party members don't get everything they want by any means and are quite capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Mr Boehner's people told me months ago that they knew there would always be a handful who would never support any deal. But that handful or rebels turned out to be a bucketful, sloshing with Tea Party enthusiasm. We will soon see the limits to their purity and the extent of their pragmatism.