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Washington’s version of Groundhog Day is approaching. In the coming days and weeks, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans will again have to resolve dust-ups over spending legislation for the federal government (to avert a government shutdown) and the debt ceiling (to avoid a possible financial crisis). And to make this process more tortuous, conservative GOPers are insisting that the repeal of Obamacare be part of the mix, with House Republicans scheduled to vote this week on a bill to continue funding the government that withholds money for the health care law. On Monday, Obama all but dared the tea party-driven Rs to shutter the government over Obamacare and took a hard line on the debt ceiling, declaring, “I will not negotiate over whether or not America keeps its word and meets its obligations… Let’s stop the threats. Let’s stop the political posturing. Let’s keep our government open.” But given the passions within the Grand Old Party, it could be tough for Obama to navigate the latest iteration of the Washington’s never-ending budget fight—especially since this time around, he may have to do so without his secret weapon: Mitch McConnell.
Wait a minute, you say. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader who has been the drum major in the GOP’s parade of obstructionism? The guy who famously quipped in 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”? Somehow he is key to Obama surviving the perilous course ahead? Well, in the past three years, McConnell has been a central player in cooking up with the White House those crafty compromises that resolved a string of budget and tax showdowns precipitated by House Republican recalcitrance. Yet nowadays, McConnell may be unable to reprise his show-saving role.