THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS…. The Wall Street reform package pending on the Hill is not without flaws. Indeed, some of those flaws are pretty important, and deserve scrutiny before additional votes. We’d all benefit quite a bit from a thorough, substantive debate over the legislation’s strengths and weaknesses.

But we can’t have that debate. Republicans have come up with one big lie, which they already know isn’t true, and the effort to deal with this one big lie has made the real debate impossible.

At his pollster’s urging, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week started popping off about the legislation being a “bailout” bill. He was lying. But as is usually the case, other far-right lawmakers are following instructions, and repeating the lie anyway. Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the Senate bill “would empower the federal government to provide Wall Street with permanent bailouts, courtesy of American taxpayers.” He’s lying, too.

No one seems capable of defending this truly pathetic claim, and one conservative senator is even willing to concede that he knows his party’s argument is plainly false. Here’s Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) yesterday, describing the liquidation-fund provision:

“[T]his fund that’s been set up is anything but a bailout. It’s been set up to, in essence, provide upfront funding by the industry so that when these companies are seized, there’s money available to make payroll and to wind it down while the pieces are being sold off.”

But it doesn’t matter. Corker’s party just doesn’t care.

And just to add insult to injury, GOP leaders signaled today that even if the perfectly reasonable idea they’re lying about is scuttled, they’ll not only still oppose the bill, they’ll also “still denounce the bill for including an unlimited bailout.”

Got that? Republicans will shamelessly lie about a provision in an important bill. Confronted with reality, they’ll still lie. And even if the provision disappears, they’ll still tell the same lie.

What’s the point of even having a public discourse when the leadership of a political party treats the truth like a punch-line?

Now would be a terrific time for a real debate. Republicans could — get this — raise legitimate objections to the legislation, and raise concerns that — believe it or not — are entirely sensible.

But, no. We can’t have real debates because we’re too busy suffering through idiotic mendacity.

Note to Republican leaders: liars become pathological when the truth works just as well, but you actually prefer dishonesty.

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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.