McCarthy, the third-ranking House Republican, said his chamber will send the continuing resolution back to the Senate with “another provision” attached, and said there are “few other options” for those provisions…

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement Saturday that he will not accept either of those changes. Senate Democratic leadership has long said they will reject any tweaks to Obamacare as part of the continuing resolution.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” McCarthy did not elaborate on the options, although he said “there are a lot of items on the table.” But one possibility floated on Capitol Hill Saturday is an amendment that would ban federal health care subsidies for lawmakers and their aides.

“We are not shutting the government down,” he vowed.

***

I talked with one of the most vocal of the defund/delay advocates, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, on Friday night, as she waited to hear what path the House Republican leadership would take. It’s safe to say her views reflected those of many of her conservative colleagues, and her reasoning was this: One, Obamacare as a policy is so far-reaching, so consequential, and so damaging that members of Congress should do everything they can — everything — to stop it before it fully goes into effect. Two, lesser measures to fight Obamacare — repealing the medical device tax or making Congress purchase coverage through the exchanges without special subsidies — are just not big enough to address the problem. And three, there have been government shutdowns in the past over far less urgent reasons that did not result in doom for Republicans…

“This isn’t just another bill,” Bachmann continued. “This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is consequential. And I think the reason why you’ve come to this flash point is that this is an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions. And we’re not giving up and we’re not caving in that easily.”

***

While Boehner and the GOP leadership want mainly to navigate safe passage through the budget deadlines, DeMint and his cohort see the deadlines as crucial tests of party resolve and a key to the Republican resurgence they envision. DeMint views the impulse to avoid confrontation as the root of Republican woes: Only by engineering grand clashes and then standing resolutely on the side of small government can Republicans win this existential struggle.

“If I were speaker, I’d tell the president, ‘Mr. President, we funded the government, but we’re not going to fund your bill,’ ” says DeMint, who likes to make his point by acting out imagined confrontations. “ ‘We are not going to give in—one month, two months, three months. We are never going to give in. It’s just that important.’ And if the president wants to put the country through that to save a law that isn’t ready to go, well, then that’s a battle we have to have.”…

DeMint likes to quote the Austrian political economist Friedrich Hayek: “Politicians are corks bobbing on the water, but we can direct the current.” Right now, Boehner is caught in a current from which he can’t seem to escape. Appeals to moderation won’t work; the purists see moderation as the problem. To DeMint, the only question is how committed Republicans are to an ideology they all profess to agree on. “There isn’t a Republican in Congress who hasn’t promised to do everything they could to stop Obamacare,” he says. “There’s no intellectual rift. The rift is over is it worth fighting for?”

***

Rogers: Would the gentleman yield?

McGovern: I happily yield.

Rogers: You say the president has threatened to veto the bill?

McGovern: No, he hasn’t threatened. He said he absolutely will veto.

Rogers: He’s drawn a red line has he?

McGovern: Yep.

At this point, the small hearing room—which was largely filled with committee members, other members of Congress who had come to testify and congressional staff— burst into laughter.

***

“I think everybody agrees that this is a loser for us if the government shuts down,” Idaho Republican [Raul Labrador] said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “That’s why I think the president and the Democrats want to shut down the government.”…

“Let’s be really honest about this,” Labrador added. “The other side would like to see Republicans in trouble in 2014. The other side wants to make sure that they’re not even willing to meet us halfway.”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman added that “Republicans know this is a loser for them,” so he had some advice.

“Republicans are going to have to learn the lessons from this whole episode,” the former GOP presidential candidate said. “And that will be, you can’t have an all-or-nothing approach.”

***

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) raised another potential snag for House Republicans, one some members may not have realized yet. If there is a government shutdown, Congress will have to adopt a funding bill to restart all shuttered government operations. That gives Obama and the Democrats additional leverage.

“I think the answer is ‘No,’ we’re not ready because I’m convinced that once the government shuts down, you have to have Barack Obama’s permission as it were, you need [Democrats’] help to start it back up again,” Franks admitted. “And if they think that the country is blaming Republicans, they will not hesitate to keep it shut down as long as possible.”

A shutdown, however, could help cool the partisan temperature within House GOP ranks. Hard-line conservatives, buoyed by their tea party supporters back home, have pined for a climactic face-off with Obama and the Democrats. Some say that they need a crisis to force Obama to negotiate — Democrats laugh at this contention. Now they could be getting exactly what they asked for, and party leaders and senior aides are convinced they won’t like it when they do.

“More tears have been shed over prayers that were answered than those denied,” joked a senior House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “They’ve wanted it. Now we’ll see how they deal with it.”

***

Happy Ending #3: Even if the president does not blink, and even if Democrats don’t get blamed, perhaps Republican activists will be so motivated and mobilized by the shutdown that their excitement will loft the party to big wins in the 2014 races.

Problem with Happy Ending #3: Because Happy Endings 1 and 2 look so unlikely, the shutdown is likely to end in a Republican retreat. Party activists will be demotivated—and may waste their energy recriminating against their own leadership rather than organizing to fight Democrats.

All in all, it’s hard to see any positive outcome emerging for Republicans from this confrontation. Yet the party is charging forward anyway. Why?

The short answer is a breakdown in the party’s ability to govern itself. It can’t think strategically. Even when pressed to do something overwhelmingly likely to end in disaster, as this shutdown looks likely to do for Republicans, the party has no way to stop itself. It stumbles into fights it cannot win, gets mad, and then in its anger lurches into yet another fight that ends in yet another loss.

***

Boehner’s members refused to wait for the debt ceiling. They want their showdown now. And that’s all for the better.

Moving the one-year delay of Obamacare to the CR maximizes the chances of a shutdown but makes a default at least somewhat less likely. If a shutdown begins Monday night, Republicans and Democrats will have more than two weeks to resolve it before hitting the debt ceiling.

As Alec Phillips put it in a research note for Goldman Sachs, “If a shutdown is avoided, it is likely to be because congressional Republicans have opted to wait and push for policy concessions on the debt limit instead. By contrast, if a shutdown occurs, we would be surprised if congressional Republicans would want to risk another difficult situation only a couple of weeks later. The upshot is that while a shutdown would be unnecessarily disruptive, it might actually ease passage of a debt limit increase.”

***

KARL: Well, unclear, but what I am hearing this morning from Republicans is that they will still attempt to put provisions in there dealing with the healthcare law and send it back to the Senate. This ping pong back and forth will go on. No signs of compromise on either side.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And then the question is how long will that go, a couple of days, or does it stretch on maybe up to the point where we reach that second major deadline, the debt limit reach on October 17? Far more serious, but does this back and forth make it more likely that we’ll avoid a confrontation over the debt limit?

KARL: Well, there are two schools of thought on this. One is that this works out so poorly for the Republicans that they realize they can’t go to the brink again with the debt ceiling. On the other side of this, George, positions have gotten so hardened here and there’s such division that it’s hard to imagine a compromise on the debt ceiling either. That said, I should tell you that aides to the Speaker of the House tell me that they are confident that the debt ceiling will be dealt with, that there will not be a default. I just can’t see exactly how we get there by October 17.

***

It is the Democrats who have taken the absolutist position. Look, I’d like to repeal every word of the law. But that wasn’t my position in this fight. My position in this fight was we should defund it, which is different from repeal. And even now what the House of Representatives has done is a step removed from defunding. It’s delaying. Now that’s the essence of a compromise. For all of us who want to see it repealed, simply delaying it for American families on the same terms as being done for big corporations—that’s a compromise.

At the same time, David, what have the Democrats compromised on? Nothing. Zero. Their position is absolutely no. How is that compromise?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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“I’ve never seen a time — can you remember a time in your lifetime when a major political party was just sitting around, begging for America to fail … I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’ll be shocked if it fails,” Clinton, who attempted during his first term as president to overhaul the country’s healthcare system in the early 1990s, said during an interview taped Thursday in New York while the annual Clinton Global Initiative was taking place.

Via the Corner.

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