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In the absence of that, the sequestration should be kept in place to reduce spending over time. It is the GOP’s ace in the hole in any future, long-term budget-cutting deal.

As this is written, Senate leaders are crafting a bill they hope to bring to a vote before Thursday’s presumed debt-ceiling extension deadline. The House was working on its own proposal, which the White House shot down Tuesday. Still, that may be one last-gasp attempt by the GOP’s hard-line, Tea Party bloc to challenge the Senate establishment.

Rock-ribbed conservative Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho spoke for many of his colleagues this week when he complained that too many Senate Republicans were “pussyfooting around” in the budget fight.

“The problem with Senate Republicans is that they always want to have a fight the next time,” he told CNN.

Whether the two houses can agree on a path forward remains unclear. House Speaker John A. Boehner has said he will not bring a bill to the floor that does not have the support of the Republican conference, but he has been in close talks with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (the father of the sequester plan) who is that chamber’s most skillful dealmaker.

It’s unlikely Mr. McConnell would want to send a bill over to the House that had little, if any, chance of passage. It also seems unlikely that any budget bill backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama can’t win a majority in the GOP-controlled House, either.

The political pressure on both sides of the aisle is getting intense. Both parties are being pounded in the polls, and Mr. Obama’s job approval score has plunged to 41 percent — with 53 percent voicing disapproval, according to Gallup’s daily tracking survey.

His numbers would be even worse if the unemployment rate had been announced last week. Economists expected a weak job-creation number, but the administration said it could not release September’s figures because of the shutdown. Sure.

When this round in the budget battle is over, and it will be over — probably sooner than many expect — there will be a lot of painful soul-searching among Republicans in the weeks to come about legislative strategies and future policymaking and political tactics.

No issue fuels more anguish than the economy. Gallup finds that 47 percent of Americans say they’re “struggling,” and 5 percent say they’re “suffering.”

Republicans should be pounding Mr. Obama every day on this issue. Yet they shoved it to a back burner or ignored it completely in the budget-battle debate as the government shutdown became an all-consuming, political black hole.

For the besieged Obama White House, the shutdown was an unexpected yet welcome political gift.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.