During my week’s vacation, I made a point of avoiding news and only rarely risking proximity to a keyboard. So it was good to tune into the Great “Fiscal Cliff” Debate of 2012 this morning, and discover nothing has really changed, per this nut graph from the daily New York Times summary of the state of play by Jonathan Weisman:

Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress appear stymied by a conservative wing that will not tolerate a vote on legislation that even tacitly allows taxes to rise. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, said the minority leader could not declare by fiat that a bill could be presented for a simple majority vote with no threat of a filibuster. That would require the consent of every Republican, and Mr. Stewart gave no indication that Mr. McConnell would seek it.

Asked if Republicans might filibuster the president’s backup plan, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of the Republican leadership, said on “Fox News Sunday”: “I just don’t think this is going to solve the problems — it actually doesn’t solve the problems. We have a spending problem in this country.”

No one election, no public pressure, no empirical evidence, no common sense, will displace conservative-activist determination to shrink and disable government and defend the lowest possible tax rates for wealthy “job creators,” their idols. The GOP may occasionally be able to maneuver around its own “base” to avoid complete political calamity, but make no mistake, Barrasso is articulating a “principle” so strong that even the whole country rushing straight to hell would not shake it. And self-proclaimed fiscal hawks who thought otherwise are nearly as deluded as they are.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.