These fights are the big ones. The showdowns that define Washington right now are animated by titanic clashes that pit competing visions for government against each other. Battles are being waged by people with memories of slights, real and imagined, by their adversaries, and people with complicated motivations. In some cases, the most important divisions are inside the minds of the lawmakers who have failed so miserably in showing the basic ability to make laws, to lead.
Here in shutdown city, the garbage is being collected, but things still stink. With that we present a special matchup edition of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
|JOHN BOEHNER VS. JOHN BOEHNER|
A simple fact: The shutdown could end this afternoon if House Speaker John Boehner -- who will be an exclusive guest on "This Week" Sunday -- allowed a vote on the same funding bill that's already passed the Senate. But there's an equally simple reason he won't do that: It would likely mark the last major leadership decision Boehner would be permitted to make. This fight was forced onto Boehner by the tea party wing in his conference, along with a small group of senators intent on dismantling Obamacare. In that sense, this entire exercise is one of getting House Republicans to the place Boehner has wanted to go all along. A House speaker who's always had a firm sense of how far he can push his colleagues is facing his biggest test. Boehner, moreover, still feels burned by his previous rounds of failed negotiations with the president. He may have to regain that trust before striking any kind of deal, but it's a deal that he wants.
|BARACK OBAMA VS. BARACK OBAMA|
President Obama seems confident he has Republicans where he wants them. The question is becoming how long he wants to keep them there. Here's the bottom line: A growing number of Republicans realize they're losing this round. But white flags seldom, if ever, come to full mast in politics. Boehner and his colleagues are looking for ways out, with repeated demands for negotiations. Yet the White House position remains that no negotiations are possible until the government reopens, and that no negotiations are possible at all around the debt ceiling. Short of a coup against Boehner, it's hard to see how these crises end without at least a little give from the White House. That would require the president -- who finally has his base proud of him for holding firm -- letting Republicans walk off with something they can call a victory. And don't overlook the fact that the government that's been partially shut down is Obama's government: He needs to manage the shutdown, along with the brand-new insurance exchanges and their flawed Websites, all while finding a path out of endless confrontations.
|WALL STREET VS. TEA PARTY|
Inside the battle raging for the soul of the Republican Party, this one carries the biggest economic implications. The government shutdown has already lasted long enough that it's being swirled into the debate over the debt ceiling. Americans can manage with closed national parks – though shutdown implications worsen with time – but defaulting on our debt is another story. Wall Street and other business interests are beginning to sound alarm bells loud enough for House Republicans to hear; House Speaker John Boehner began telling colleagues not to worry about passing the debt ceiling. But that conflicts with GOP demands for negotiations over that same debt ceiling, a point the White House refuses to budge on. The question becomes whether the business community can prevail on the GOP's tea party wing to give up this portion of the fight before triggering economic calamities that could easily rival the 2008 economic crisis
|RED-STATE DEMOCRATS VS. BLUE-STATE REPUBLICANS|
Both are endangered species, but their strength may be vital to the health of the Republic. Everything in the House is a battle for 217 votes right now, and Republicans have a total of 233 members to work with. The tiny number of conservative Democrats who can be counted on to join Republicans could be critical in determining how long GOP hardliners can hold their position against a funding bill that doesn't come with conditions. On the other side of the aisle, moderate Republicans could be the means to forcing an end to the standoff. Already, upwards of 20 Republicans have indicated they're ready to support a "clean" funding bill. That's more than enough to partner with Democrats and pass something out of the House. But whether those same Republicans would declare war on their own party by bucking their leadership in an actual vote is another question entirely. The heat these groups feel from their constituents could determine the final outcome.
|LITTLE DEAL VS. BIG DEAL|
It may seem naïve to suggest, but there's actually talk of a "grand bargain" circulating, again, on Capitol Hill. In short, we all know that these crises will come to an end at some point. Paradoxically, it may actually be easier to end the immediate disagreements by solving long-term problems, if only because that would put more chips on the table. A little deal would mean funding the government for a few months, and lifting the debt ceiling for a few months more. As for a big deal, think about not having to worry about government funding for an entire year, or about the debt ceiling for – gasp! – two or three years. In exchange, forget about undoing Obamacare: Republicans would be in the market for commitments like entitlement reforms (changing the way inflation is calculated under Social Security, for instance), the framework for a major overhaul of the tax code, or fixes to the "sequester" budget cuts that impacted Defense spending so severely. Sound ridiculous? It probably is. But as John McCain was once fond of saying, "it's always darkest … before it's totally black."