But Republicans know they will soon be cast as the villain again. During the fiscal cliff fight, they were accused of being the party ready to plunge the nation into financial disaster on behalf of their millionaire and billionaire friends. During the debt ceiling fight, they will be tagged as the party willing to take the nation to the very brink of default to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly.
That will make for a tough debate. In addition, given the federal government's horrendous spending excesses, Republicans know the debt ceiling will have to go up eventually, probably with some GOP support.
Nevertheless, Republicans seem ready for the fight. And unlike the fiscal cliff battle, when it was obvious that taxes were going to go up, there's no clear sense of how this one will end.
Nobody knows, even the main players. To cite an example from the fiscal cliff fight, shortly before the deadline I talked to two senior senators, one from each party, and was struck by how little they knew about what was going on. Of course, they knew the issues and the moving parts, but when it came to the actual provisions of the bill that was being fashioned as we spoke, they were flying blind. What would the tax rate cutoffs be? What about the sequestration cuts? And the other issues, like estate taxes? The Senate leadership was making the decisions, and even senior lawmakers didn't know what was happening. Expect a lot of that in the next few months.
So Republicans enter the debt ceiling fight, knowing there will be plenty of confusion, name calling and desperate maneuvering. But they know one other thing, too. They know they're doing the right thing.