Two immediately pressing pieces of legislation are currently in front of the Congress: extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and extension of the country's borrowing authority.
Both pieces of legislation are worthy. One of the pieces of legislation--expanding the debt ceiling--is absolutely necessary. Both have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past (Republicans were happy to provide more jobless benefits and to raise the debt ceiling when their guy occupied the White House; in fairness, both were also happy to demagog these issues when the other guy occupied the White House). Both would almost surely pass if given up or down votes.
Imagine the headlines--and the increased respect for Congress--if both had received those votes yesterday.
Instead, a minority of Republican senators, including North Carolina's Richard Burr, blocked consideration of jobless benefits--even though a key Republican demand, that the cost of the benefits be offset, had been met.
And, the Republican House, which can't decide exactly which hostage to take (and eventually release), left town without a debt ceiling vote.
In the meantime, the rest of us are left to shake our heads and just imagine positive headlines.