We understand that several dozen Republicans were elected last November to the House of Representatives in part because they pledged to pursue fiscal sanity in the Capitol.
We recognize too that those lawmakers don't want to appear, in the eyes of their constituents, as spineless sellouts less than a year later by voting to increase the nation's debt ceiling.
Yet politicians, in common with everyone else, must eventually concede to reality.
And part of that reality is that Congress will increase the debt
ceiling, as it has done 78 times since 1960 and as it must do again now
to avoid worsening the already severe economic crisis.
Yet if too many of these dogged Republicans continue to defy that
truth, they might well end up ensuring that the country - and more to
the point their supporters - are saddled with a deal far worse than the
compromise that is today ripe for the taking.
Making a bad situation worse is a reality every politician understands implicitly.
So far, 38 Republicans in the House have signed a pledge to oppose any
increase in the debt ceiling that doesn't include a constitutional
amendment to balance the federal budget.
That amendment is not going to happen.
The votes aren't there.
You don't have to like it. We don't like it. But that's the reality.
So what are the alternatives?
Well, the essential question we put to recalcitrant Republicans is
this: Will you, and the people who sent you to Washington, D.C., be
happier with a deal designed by House Speaker John Boehner, or one
endorsed by his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi?
Questions don't get much easier than that one.
Boehner's proposal would result in about $1.2 trillion in spending cuts
over the next decade. That's not all guaranteed, of course - the next
Congress could cancel what this one does.
But the Speaker's plan would at least lock in cuts during the next two fiscal years.
Any other compromise that has a realistic chance of getting through
Congress this year almost certainly would raise the debt limit even
higher, and include tax increases that the GOP abhors.
Look, we admire tenacity in politicians. And we support the GOP's effort to lasso the federal largesse.
But that worthwhile goal is sure to slip away if the Republicans'
stubbornness hands the rope to President Obama and the Democrats.