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The problem with an evolving ransom note

The government has been shut down for two weeks, and at the earliest, the nation is facing a potentially catastrophic debt-ceiling deadline in three days. We know congressional Republicans expect Democrats to pay a ransom before they agree to complete these basic tasks, but can anyone, anywhere, state with confidence exactly what GOP officials are demanding? Indeed, isn't it inherently problematic that the Republicans' ransom note keeps evolving?

Yesterday, House Republicans started working on a new, short-term debt ceiling extension. It's ... creative.

It's worth emphasizing that the House really isn't trying to work towards a solution anymore and all of the action is in the Senate. That said, if the Senate process collapses, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn't actually want a sovereign debt crisis, so his caucus is prepping a temporary bill to prevent default. Politicoadded, "The House GOP increase of the borrowing limit will not be 'clean.'"

Well, no, apparently not. The above image is based on reporting from National Review's Robert Costa, who first learned of the new laundry list. Let's take the bullets one at a time.

First, the six-week extension is far too brief for Democrats, who would not welcome yet another crisis around Thanksgiving. For House Republicans, however, it would apparently give them more time to go after contraception for reasons that only make sense to them.

Second, the so-called Lankford bill refers to Rep. James Lankford's (R-Okla.) "Government Shutdown Prevention Act." In practical terms, the measure would impose automatic, across-the-board spending cuts whenever there's a budget impasse, so as to prevent shutdowns. It's obviously a non-starter with Democrats.

Third, I'd need to know more details about income verification to evaluate it on the merits, but it's worth noting that the Affordable Care Act already includes measures to address this.

And finally, there's the unyielding desire among Republican lawmakers to force Capitol Hill staff to pay more for their health care, for reasons that continue to defy comprehension.

And yet, despite all of this, the House Republicans' latest ransom note -- demanding Democratic concessions in exchange for nothing -- is actually more modest than their last one. With the House GOP, I suppose this is what passes for progress.