No one knows for sure how the next few phases of ACA implementation will go. Democrats’ hopes that their fortunes will improve as a result of upcoming fiscal debates are starting to look pretty shaky, however. Democrats may be counting on Republicans to engage in more self-destructive behavior when government funding expires in mid-January and the debt ceiling expires in February.

But it looks increasingly likely that Republicans will go along with a deal, averting a spending/debt-ceiling crisis, and not repeat the disaster of this fall. Avoiding such a fight would keep most of the public’s focus on Obamacare, and, in Republicans’ eyes, give them the gift that will keep on giving. At this point, that doesn’t appear to be an unrealistic expectation.

But what will happen next? A jaded observer might suggest that certain Senate Democrats may try to move the goalposts of a budget deal, pushing for additional Republican concessions to the point that House Speaker John Boehner can’t deliver enough of the hard-liners in his caucus, thus creating a repeat of last fall’s showdown. Of course, that is a highly cynical view, but it does not seem implausible that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might try such a strategy. The catch is whether Democrats could potentially sabotage a budget deal without leaving any incriminating fingerprints. The cynics might be wrong but, then again, Reid has six Senate seats up next year in states that Mitt Romney carried by double-digit margins. We’ll see.