SO GOES CALIFORNIA…. It’s only the financial stability of the nation’s most populous state. That’s hardly a reason for state Republican lawmakers to act responsibly.

A delicate budget fix crafted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders was on the brink of collapse early Wednesday after Republicans in the Senate ousted their leader. The late-night coup could derail already strained budget talks by requiring them to renegotiate with a new Republican leader.

The current package containing billions in tax hikes, spending cuts and borrowing took leaders more than three months to put together as the state tries to pass a midyear budget fix and avoid fiscal calamity.

Lawmakers viewed the leadership change as a major setback after they fell short by just one GOP vote, but Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg said he didn’t want to speculate what it would mean for the package.

”We’re after one reasonable person who puts California first,” Steinberg said as Republicans voted to remove Sen. Dave Cogdill.

Republicans replaced Cogdill with Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murietta, whom they saw as more capable of resisting tax increases.

Got that? The leader of the Republican caucus in the state Senate backed a compromise measure that would have resolved the budget crisis. So, naturally, the Republican caucus in the state Senate voted to kick their leader out of his post, and rally behind someone less reasonable.

Keep in mind, policymakers have worked for months to pull this package together. California needs just one more Republican in the state Senate to endorse the budget, but there isn’t one.

Paul Krugman noted, “Everyone should be paying attention to the political/fiscal catastrophe now unfolding in California. Years of neglect, followed by economic disaster — and with all reasonable responses blocked by a fanatical, irrational minority. This could be America next.”

That’s true, but as Scott Lemieux explained, it’s not just unhinged Republicans acting irresponsibly, it’s also a super-majority mandate for tax increases that gives irresponsible Republicans the power to shut down the process in the first place.

Kevin Drum concluded, “So it’s back to square one with the flat earthers determined to wreck the state. A friend of mine emailed to say that my post the other day comparing California Republicans to lemmings and neanderthals was unfair to both lemmings and neanderthals, and I guess he had a point.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.