The previous two-week extension passed 91-9, and Durbin and Schumer already signaled on yesterday’s chat shows that they’re open to the GOP’s new plan for a new three-week extension involving $6 billion in (mostly Democratic) cuts. So the stand being taken here is symbolic, but still welcome. It’s a national disgrace that, at a moment of universally acknowledged fiscal crisis (well, almost), the best Congress can do to solve the problem is make penny ante cuts via bite-sized budgets. And since the increasing absurdity of it means this could be the last short-term extension, it’s smart politics by Rubio, at least among the base, to get out in front of pointing out that absurdity.

The absurdity of what we have witnessed on the Senate floor is only eclipsed by the lack of leadership demonstrated by the White House, and a President who has been absent from this debate and even sent his lead negotiator on a five-day foreign trip.

All this has led to a very predictable outcome: Washington politicians of both parties scrambling to put together two and three week plans to keep funding the government, while not fundamentally changing the behavior that has gotten us into this mess to begin with.

Running our government on the fumes of borrowed spending is unacceptable, short-sighted and dangerous. I commend the efforts of House and Senate Republican leaders to deal with this, but I did not come to the U.S. Senate to be part of some absurd political theatre.

I will no longer support short-term budget plans. While attempts at new spending reductions are commendable, we simply can no longer afford to nickel-and-dime our way out of the dangerous debt America has amassed. It is time our leaders in Washington wake up and realize that we are headed for a debt disaster.

Allen West voted yes on the last extension but said a few days ago he’ll vote no on this one; other freshmen like Mike Lee in the Senate and Tim Huelskamp and Jeff Duncan in the House will join him. It’s not just freshmen, either: Jim Jordan, the new chair of the Republican Study Committee, said today he’ll vote no, partly because the short-term bill says nothing about defunding Planned Parenthood. It’ll still pass — the vote on the last one was 335-91 so there’s plenty of margin for error — but as the defections pile up, the chances for future extensions crumble. Which, politically may give Democrats an opening: If they sense a critical mass of Republicans forming against short-term extensions, then all they have to do is keep voting “yes” and let GOP opposition build. Eventually there’ll be a majority in the Republican caucus that prefers a shutdown to a new two- or three-week deal; when that happens, Democrats will crow that they tried to compromise by agreeing to the House’s short-term deals, but those darned tea partiers are too fanatic. In fact, Chuck Schumer’s already pushing that talking point:

“We agree that running the government two weeks at a time is not good for anyone, but it is the far right that is preventing any compromise on a long-term budget. These Republicans’ decisions to abandon the three-week proposal negotiated by their own party’s leadership suggests that Tea Party lawmakers are unwilling to accept anything short of the extreme cuts in the House budget, even if it risks a shutdown. This is a bad omen that shows how difficult it will be for Speaker Boehner to bring the Tea Party along for any long-term compromise. It is becoming clear that the path to a bipartisan budget deal may not go through the Tea Party at all. In order to avert a shutdown, Speaker Boehner should consider leaving the Tea Party behind and instead seek a consensus in the House among moderate Republicans and a group of Democrats.”

Also on record as ripping “the extreme wing of the Republican Party” this afternoon is Michael Grimm, who’s … a freshman Republican.

Exit question: Doesn’t the stance taken by Rubio et al. further reduce the GOP’s leverage in striking a long-term deal on the budget for the rest of the year? All Reid and Schumer have to do now is continue to push short-term extensions every few weeks and watch Republicans peel off. Sure, they’ll have to agree to a few billion in new cuts each time, but those cuts are chump change and worth accepting if it means driving a deep wedge in the GOP caucus. No wonder Cantor’s sounding lukewarm!