Everyone understand what he’s trying to do here? I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t initially. The link to his floor speech this afternoon started circulating a little while ago on Twitter, with lefties and righties alike marveling over the line about leaving ObamaCare for another day. Does that mean Mike Lee, co-leader of the “defund” caucus, is caving?

This is an effort to compromise, an effort that is badly needed, an effort that comes in the wake of other efforts to compromise that have for the most part failed. The House of Representatives has tried now three different times to avoid a shutdown, passing three different measures to make sure that our government would continue to be funded.

Senator Reid and those members of his conference, those who support him have rejected all three plans, rejected all three offers to keep the government funding, accusing republicans of playing games with Obamacare. So in light of that, let’s leave Obamacare for another day and not hold the vast majority of government functions hostage when the vast majority of government functions don’t have anything to do with the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare.

We did it yesterday. We did it and it worked well. It was seamless. It was done with absolute unanimous consent. We did it with respect to active duty military pay yesterday. We can do it for veterans benefits, for border security, for national parks and many, many other government agencies. We can keep government open. We can keep those aspects of our federal government funded. We can do so. We should do so. Together we will do so.

No, of course he’s not caving. He’s simply approaching the defunding question from the new baseline of a shutdown, as part of the House GOP’s strategy to start passing small funding bills targeted at particular agencies and programs (e.g., Defense, State, DHS, etc). Technically, he doesn’t need Democrats and Obama to agree to defund ObamaCare anymore. Thanks to the shutdown, it’s already been defunded. (Er, sort of.) He’s done it! All he needs to do now is fund everything else except ObamaCare via piecemeal bills and he’ll have arrived at the same result that he and Ted Cruz were aiming for at the start. That’s all he means in saying O-Care should be left for another day.

If Democrats were as dumb as me, that might be lost on them. Alas:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to the floor a little before 4:30 p.m. to knock down the latest House Republican plan to fund parts of the government. It’s “just another whacky idea” from tea party Republicans, Reid said. “We support the federal government,” he said. “That’s our job. That’s what we do.”

Calling tea party Republicans “rabble-rousers,” the Nevada Democrat said that “we won’t be forced to choose” between what parts of the government to bring back from shutdown. It’s “not a serious plan,” Reid said.

Reid suggested that the latest House gambit is just another way of trying to get rid of Obamacare. It’s just Republicans trying to “nitpick these little things” until the Affordable Care Act is dead. “It won’t work.”

Lee knew, of course, that they wouldn’t go for it, but this puts the shoe on the other foot by making Reid and the Democrats the obstacle to funding national parks, the D.C. zoo, and other prime targets of shutdown theater. Imagine a low-information voter, who’s coming late to this story (as always), tuning in to find alleged anarchist Mike Lee demanding money for national parks and Reid refusing adamantly. The blame game might be more complicated than Democrats expect.

Via the Corner, here’s Chris Matthews wondering whether the elephants at the zoo will get fed. Good news, Chris: Mike Lee’s here with the elephant chow.

Update: Nick Gillespie points to Lee’s new position as a touchstone for how conservatives, even of the tea-party variety, differ from libertarians. Why on earth, he asks, are fiscal conservatives falling all over each other to fund national parks and the department of education? I’ll be interested to see what Rand Paul thinks of that.