Paul Ryan and John Boehner have convinced their caucus to propose a clean but short-term hike in the debt ceiling in exchange for negotiations on entitlement and budget reform, the Wall Street Journal reported last night.  The offer would allow both sides to cool off and claim some victory while leaving the shutdown in place until a larger agreement can be reached.  And this time, it looks like the GOP has achieved some unity on their strategy:

The partisan logjam that has paralyzed the capital showed signs of easing Wednesday, as conservative Republicans warmed to the idea of a short-term increase in the country’s borrowing limit and House GOP leaders prepared for their first meeting with President Barack Obama since the government shutdown began.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, outlined a plan Wednesday to fellow conservatives to extend the nation’s borrowing limit for four to six weeks, paired with a framework for broader deficit-reduction talks, according to lawmakers briefed on the proposal. The greater the spending reduction the talks produced, the longer the next extension of the debt ceiling would be under Mr. Ryan’s plan.

Top House Republicans prepared to head to the White House Thursday to discuss the issues underlying the standoff that has resulted in the nine-day partial government shutdown and that now threatens the country’s ability to borrow.

The White House said the session isn’t a negotiation, in keeping with Mr. Obama’s demand that lawmakers raise the debt ceiling and fully reopen the government without conditions before policy talks are held. But the meeting may allow House Republicans to say they had a policy conversation with the president, which they have been saying is a condition of resolving the impasse.

New Townhall editor Conn Carroll reports that Ryan and Boehner have new support for this compromise plan from the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks. Both groups pushed hard for the “defund” strategy that split the GOP in September:

Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham, one of the architects of the Defund Obamacare campaign, said yesterday that Republicans should give President Obama a clean debt limit hike so conservatives can focus on Obamacare and the government shutdown instead.

“No, we should raise the debt limit,” Needham told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday. “My tactic is to focus on the CR,” he said.

The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York reports that fellow Defund activists at FreedomWorks are also on board for a clean debt limit hike that shifts focus back to the government shutdown debate.

And it does appear House Republican Leadership might do just that…although for different reasons.

Rep. Jack Kingston tells the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio that the newfound consensus is the big story:

The change in hallway conversations, press conference declarations and op-ed pieces suggests that Republican goals in the debate over government funding and the debt ceiling is shifting from repealing the health care law to lowering the nation’s staggering debt and deficit.

“I think that there is a developing consensus that this is a lot bigger than an Obamacare discussion,” Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., told the Washington Examiner Wednesday.

The re-emergence of Paul Ryan as a leader in the budget impasse made the difference in strategic thinking:

One of the earliest indications Wednesday that Republicans were prepared to move beyond the Obamacare fight was a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., headlined “Here’s How We Can End This Stalemate.” Ryan wrote extensively about cutting spending and reforming entitlement programs without once mentioning Obamacare.

While the Obamacare defunding fight was driven by about 60 House conservatives and a handful of Republican senators, there is much broader support among Republican lawmakers for a deal that would avoid another financial crisis and help the GOP secure some of its top budget priorities.

The defunding strategy is dead, and it had no realistic chance of success as long as Harry Reid controlled the Senate and Barack Obama is President.  The groundswell of public opinion hasn’t turned against ObamaCare as much as it has against Washington, and in fact the shutdown fight arguably has partially eclipsed the utter collapse of the ACA exchanges.  Republicans need to look for ways to make gains on policies that are achievable in the short run, and allow ObamaCare to speak for its ruinous self at this point.  It looks like Heritage and FreedomWorks have finally agreed on those points, and perhaps most Republicans on Capitol Hill too:

“There is a school of thought that now that no one can get health care through the exchanges, maybe we should let Obamacare crash under its own weight,” Kingston said. “I think there is some discussion along that line.”

The GOP doesn’t have any choice now but to do that, as long as Democrats refuse to delay or end ObamaCare — and they’ll own the consequences for that in 2014.

Update: Added the link I forgot to include to the WSJ story; thanks to Jeryl Bier for the heads-up.