PUTTING ON A RECEPTIVE APPEARANCE…. Throughout the debate over health care reform, congressional Republicans haven’t exactly played a constructive role. In addition to lying shamelessly and constantly about the provisions in the proposals, the GOP’s response to every possible idea has been the same: “No.” Even one of the Gang of Six members has publicly conceded that he’s only at the table to reject Democratic ideas.

Now, it’s worth noting that this isn’t necessarily offensive. Republicans are the opposition party. They’re supposed to oppose. They tried governing, failed, and were rejected by voters. Now their principal task is rejecting what the new majority wants to do.

But there are several factors that continue to make Republican satisfaction relevant. Senate Democrats, for example, don’t have a filibuster-proof majority, and the reconciliation process comes with its own set of problems. For that matter, “centrist” Dems, especially those in “red” states, are looking for some partisan cover on health care. And the media still places enormous value in “bipartisan” solutions, and necessarily casts doubts on major initiatives passed solely with Democratic support.

And what do Republicans want? Other than to say “no,” mislead the nation, and kill Democratic legislation? Apparently, they now want to appear constructive. Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee suddenly thinks a compromise is at least possible, just as soon as the majority scuttles that pesky public option.

“There is a common ground,” Corker said Wednesday in an interview before his final town hall meeting. “It’s half a loaf, possibly, from the administration’s viewpoint. But what it does is take us way down the field.”

Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa, after spending the past month trashing the White House and reform proposals, is suddenly taking a slightly more optimistic tone.

Arguing that the town hall forums of August have “changed the direction” of the health care reform debate, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said Thursday that he nonetheless expects a bill to pass before Christmas — though it “may be kind of miniature to what we’re talking about.”

“…I believe [the bill] will be a little more scaled down than what we were originally thinking when we left for August summer break.”

Even House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia, who hasn’t tried to be constructive all year, suggested Republicans are just waiting at the negotiating table, ready to be helpful.

Cantor said that Republicans need to hear from Obama that there will be “no government decision making” in rationing care or restricting Americans to get medical treatment.

“That’s the signal for us that we could produce some reform,” Cantor told The Hill Thursday.

This is what is generally referred to as a “sucker’s bet.” Congressional Republicans have spent every waking moment for the last nine months trying to destroy the Obama presidency, and kill reform. Now, perhaps worried about being blamed by the public for obstructionism, we suddenly see Republican lawmakers sound receptive notes.

To believe this is to believe Lucy really will let Charlie Brown kick the football this time. The White House and Democratic leaders could agree to drop a public option and the GOP would simply move on to the next set of demands. Eventually, Dems would say they can’t give up any more, and Republicans would immediately respond that the majority isn’t open to good-faith negotiations.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, just a couple of weeks ago, said Republicans would oppose reform measures no matter how many concessions Democrats made. He wasn’t kidding.

Steve Benen

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.