White House aides say Obama is still willing to negotiate over a long-term spending deal, just not as part of raising the debt ceiling. But the opportunity for that could be short-lived, too. The Senate version of the short-term spending bill would set up another possible government shutdown as soon as Nov. 16.
What's more, lines in the sand have blurred before.
Obama ran for re-election vowing to increase taxes on individuals making more than $200,000. Republicans insisted they would not raise taxes at all. In the end, both settled on a hike on incomes above $400,000. Most recently, Obama altered course on Syria, at first determined to launch missile strikes against its regime, then seeking congressional support before taking a diplomatic path aimed at destroying Syria's chemical stockpile.
The White House also sees the current showdown as an opportunity to cast the Republican Party in the image of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a leader in the effort to kill Obama's health care law.
"They have allowed Ted Cruz to be their face, write their charter, and steer their ship," said senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer. "That is a decision that has real consequences for how the American people view the Republican Party as we head into this debate."
Still, if the White House is eager to stitch Cruz' name to the Republican Party banner, many Senate Republicans were doing their best to distance themselves from the Texan and his aggressive tactics.
Indeed, as much as Republicans dislike the health care law, many Republicans argue that seeking to kill it is fruitless as long as Obama is president and Democrats control the Senate.
Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
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