We very much doubt that Democrats would accept any serious structural entitlement reform, such as premium support for Medicare or reducing the growth rate of initial Social Security benefits. The entitlement reforms they might accept aren’t worth the tax increases they would want in return.

A modest bargain makes more sense than a grand one. Democrats would get a temporary increase in spending, and in return Republicans would get a delay of the fine on people without health insurance. Depending on the amount of spending involved, that deal could be a good one for Republicans. It would be a successful act of resistance to the least popular part of an unpopular law, and would set a precedent for delaying or neutering other parts of the “law of the land” Democrats keep trying to insist is fixed in concrete. Democrats would probably resist, as many of them think the fines are central to the law’s operation. They might go along with it, however, if they are as confident as they claim to be that Obamacare is poised to become popular now that people are set to draw subsidies from it.

Of the options, the most promising seems to us to be the modest bargain, because the potential payoff — a delay in the mandate — would be more valuable than the Vitter amendment, and more likely than Democratic capitulation to a continued shutdown.