Happy ObamaCare Day. Head on over to www.healthcare.gov and sign yourself up for some juicy health insurance. You deserve it.

Meanwhile, in Cuckooland, the government is shut down for lack of appropriations. The House finally agreed to assign conferees to negotiate on the budget, which is plenty rich considering their history since Obama was reelected. As a condition of raising the last debt ceiling, they insisted that the Senate pass a budget, which they promptly did. Then, the House suddenly reversed course and refused to assign conferees to negotiate a budget.

[Harry] Reid noted on the floor Monday night that Democrats repeatedly sought to set up conference negotiations over the budget for fiscal year 2014 only to be blocked every time by Senate Republicans.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said the GOP offer was “the latest absurd and desperate attempt by Speaker Boehner to delay the inevitable—bringing a clean continuing resolution to the floor.”

She said Republicans blocked 18 efforts to go to conference on the budget.

The assignment of conferees is actually a significant concession on the Republicans’ part but it is kind of hard to understand, and it comes in a gun-to-the-head context that the Democrats immediately rejected.

Every spring, Congress is supposed to pass a budget resolution that isn’t binding, but does provide guidance to the appropriations subcommittees on how much money they have to devote to all the various government departments, agencies, and programs. Those subcommittees are then supposed to “do their job,” as the president puts it. In the years since the Republicans retook the House, the Senate had not bothered to pass a budget since they knew they could never come to an agreement with the House on the numbers. The Republicans seized on this failure as a campaign theme, and hit the Democrats over the head with it repeatedly. That’s why they insisted that the Senate pass a budget this year. They didn’t expect the Democrats to be able to do it, but the Democrats did so with little problem. As soon as they did, the Republicans realized that they were now in a bind. If they appointed conferees to negotiate with the Senate, they would have to spell out what kind of cuts they want (which would be tremendously unpopular) and they would have to make concessions (which would divide the caucus). So, they simply refused to appoint conferees and decided to take the government hostage.

By appointing conferees now, they have basically signaled that the game is over. Yet, they have done it with the government shut down. The Democrats are insisting that they won’t negotiate under these circumstances, and that the House must first open the government for 90 days. Once the House acts, the Senate will agree to a conference, and the Republicans will face all the problems they sought to avoid.

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