Republicans raise grandstanding to an art form

US House Speaker John Boehner Republican Speaker John Boehner failed to rally his party behind any proposal

As America stands on the brink of running out of money to pay its bills, the Republican leadership in the House raised pointless grandstanding to an art form.

More than that, in just a few hours they hit on a formula that flawlessly exposed their own division, underscored their leadership's weakness and highlighted the extent of their humiliation.

I read one far-right blog this week that claimed President Obama was a Soviet mole, planted at childhood.

It seems much more credible that the Republican leader John Boehner was the plant, sent here to damage the GOP by sending its poll ratings through the floor.

It seemed Republicans and Democrats in the Senate were on the brink of a deal.

The Republicans in the House scuppered that by announcing a plan of their own. It attached three fairly minor concessions about Obamacare to a bill lifting the debt ceiling and reopening the government.

They couldn't get the votes for that from their own side. So they dropped all but one of the conditions. They wanted to make sure staff in Congress didn't get health care subsidies.

As a ransom note this doesn't amount to much. It was, I suppose, something they thought they might be able to sell to activists back home. Rather like a man who has been almost stripped naked refusing to remove one last sock, claiming his dignity depends on it.

But they couldn't get the votes of their own members for that either. So they announced "no vote tonight". That mean's Tuesday might as well have been cancelled and we are back to square one.

Guess what? The Senate is working on a plan. But they are running out of time. How the House will react to any deal is uncertain. But I bet they embarrass themselves in the process.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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