Mardell: Republicans remove blindfold

Mark Mardell
North America editor
@BBCMarkMardellon Twitter

image copyrightReuters
image captionJohn Boehner managed to sound tough while backing down

The White House is determined not to look too enthusiastic about the Republican offer to avert a debt crisis.

My guess is in the end that the president will have to accept it - but he'll play hard ball and make it clear he's got his way.

The president's spokesman, Jay Carney, says that Mr Obama is happy cooler heads seem to have prevailed and there is a recognition that default is not an option.

But the White House is still using very tough language saying the American people should not be punished so the Republicans can save face.

He says the president would probably sign a no-strings-attached, short-term deal to lift the debt ceiling.

But he suggested he wouldn't "pay ransom" for that deal.

In other words there's unlikely to be a formal promise to negotiate. There may be an informal agreement, but this is of course all part of the negotiations.

Earlier this morning, one Democratic senator compared this crisis to a blindfolded man walking towards the edge of the cliff.

The Republican leadership has taken the blindfold off and taken a sudden leap backwards.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner sounded tough, even as he backed down.

"What we want to do is to offer the president today the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling, an agreement to go to conference on the budget for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and to start to deal with America's pressing problems."

Notice there's no mention of the original demand that "Obamacare" must be delayed or otherwise damaged.

But the offer still leaves the government shutdown.

The White House will want to see the formal wording of any bill before it bites and that won't be the end of it.

First, intelligence from up on the Hill suggests that getting enough Republican votes could be hard, although influential conservative blogs are not being too critical.

However, there probably will be a backlash from some supporters who will feel betrayed.

How loudly they shout now could change the calculations.

And even if the initial deal is done it will mean at least six weeks of jittery uncertainty hanging over the American economy - at the end of which we could be back where we started.

The White House describes that as "spite" - towards the American people.

Still a deal to avert what some describe as a catastrophe next week is now possible, even likely.

But wrestling on the edge of a cliff is an unpredictable business.

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