As the clock ticks closer to midnight Tuesday and a first-ever default by the federal government that threatens to wreck the U.S. economy, Republicans will repeat over and over again that they are standing on principle for the benefit of the American people.
Don't believe them for a minute.
They aren't standing on principle; they are cowering in fear for their own political hides.
But what could be more frightening than throwing our country back into recession?
Facing a primary opponent from their own party in next year's elections. That's what.
There is no other reason for House Republicans not to agree to a deal today. None.
The deals have become so favorable for them that conservative columnist David Brooks criticized Republicans for rejecting what he calls "the mother of all no-brainers."
No less an anti-tax stalwart than the influential Grover Norquist, the activist behind a politically powerful no-tax pledge which most of the Republicans have signed on to, gave conservatives a hall pass with permission to take a compromise deal that raises some tax revenue.
Moreover, Republicans like to talk about coming to rescue of business and "job creators."
But even business executives have gotten so fed up with inaction on the debt crisis that they are telling Republicans that some new taxes would be OK, so just take the darn deal already.
With a conservative political overlord like Norquist and their sainted job creators all telling the Republicans to go for it, what's holding them back?
They are afraid, no matter how good the deal is, some tea party folks back home will demand some even more absolutist position and one of them will come out of the shadows and challenge them from the right.
They all don't want to be the next Bob Bennett. Bennett was a longtime Republican senator from Utah. He was as faithful a conservative as you could find, but he also was rational and realistic. Too realistic for the tea party folks back home. A tea party activist named Mike Lee popped up, and defeated Bennett for the Republican nomination for Senate last year. Mike Lee now is the senator, and Bennett is history.
With tea party folks actively cheering for default, a lot of these tea party-back freshman are terrified that if they took a deal — even an awesome one — they'll be the next Bob Bennett and their congressional careers will come to a screeching halt.