As things stand now, some worry that nothing short of a catastrophe could force a resolution.

“We have sunk to the lowest common denominator in order to get a deal — sheer panic,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, a former aide to House and Senate leadership. “The reality of a stock market crash is probably the only way Washington will strike a deal. It is probably the only scenario that could likely force the speaker’s hand and allow for a deal driven by Democratic votes to pass the House.”

Which, of course, is not an ideal way to govern.

“The hard-core anti-tax conservatives in the GOP seem to believe that Barack Obama will be blamed if there is no agreement reached to avoid sequestration and the tax increases that are coming,” said Sheldon D. Pollack, a University of Delaware law and political science professor who has written a history of Republican anti-tax policy. “Calculated gamble? Or are they simply incapable of recognizing that they do not control the White House or the Senate, and hence do not have the ability to control the agenda? Sadly, I think it is the latter.”