CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thursday, Republicans in the House of Representatives showed hints of retreating from their destructive assault on America's government. Keep your fingers crossed and hope that common sense prevails.
Public approval of Congress has sunk -- understandably -- to an incredibly low rate of just 5 percent, according to a new Associated Press poll.
Actually, 5 percent is higher than our estimation of House Republicans who forced the Washington nightmare because they're determined to prevent 30 million "working poor" Americans from obtaining health insurance.
Even some Republicans are disgusted by the coldhearted attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Former Ohio governor and U.S. senator George Voinovich wrote in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"That we have arrived at a time where Congress is unable to pass a budget, or even a continuing resolution, disheartens and demoralizes me. It is shameful that a small group of Republicans in the House of Representatives has held hostage our country's budget over a piece of legislation that was passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court."
Voinovich said Congress members shouldn't be allowed to collect their fat paychecks while multitudes of Americans and government workers are laid off by the GOP shutdown.
President Obama said repeatedly that he's willing to discuss possible compromises to improve the ACA, but he can't do so under political blackmail -- or minority elements in Congress would adopt the tactic constantly. "We can't make extortion routine as part of our democracy." In his weekly radio address, he said:
"There's only one way out of this reckless and damaging shutdown: pass a budget that funds our government, with no partisan strings attached. The Senate has already done this. And there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives willing to do the same, and end this shutdown immediately. But the far right of the Republican Party won't let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote."
How contemptible. The Washington calamity would end if Boehner allowed House members to vote on a "clean" funding bill -- but he's afraid to do so, because Tea Party Republicans might support a militant challenger against him next spring.
A bigger calamity looms next week when Congress must raise the national debt ceiling, or America will default on its obligations. Some House Republicans threaten to block the ceiling lift unless the Affordable Care Act is destroyed. Obama said:
"I won't pay a ransom in exchange for reopening the government. And I certainly won't pay a ransom in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. For as reckless as a government shutdown is, an economic shutdown that comes with default would be dramatically worse."
We can't guess how this sordid saga will end, or whether it will be repeated again and again. Hints of a GOP capitulation that emerged Thursday are encouraging.