Beyond the brink
President Obama said he wanted an answer on a budget deal by the morning. That deadline has passed. The talking goes on but the blame game is on in earnest. If there is a shutdown it will do deep damage to the image of one or both parties. The two sides can't even agree what it is they disagree about.
The Democrats are doing a better job of setting the narrative. John Boehner made a mistake allowing the president to speak for him last night and issuing a joint statement with Harry Reid. He is not doing a good job of setting the narrative.
The Republicans insist the argument is about the size of cuts. The Democrats say it is about ideology. Harry Reid's case is that the remaining issue is a Republican demand to take funds away from Planned Parenthood. Although this is a group that funds abortions he says it is illegal for federal money to go towards this. As far as I can see he is factually correct.
So Mr Reid argues the Republicans are holding up the budget because they want to attack cancer screening for women. He says if that sounds ridiculous, it is because it is ridiculous.
By contrast John Boehner, tense and strained before the microphones says it is about the size of the cuts. He says few policy issues remain. But he won't answer the question whether Planned Parenthood is one of them. He is not trying hard to set out his side of the story. I am not arguing that the Republicans don't have a case. But they are not making it with any verve or enthusiasm. Mr Boehner's lack of fighting spirit suggests that he accepts he will get the blame for a shut down.