To end the government shutdown, all Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) needs to do is let the House of Representatives vote on a budget. It would pass within 30 minutes. Virtually all 200 House Democrats would vote to keep the government open, as would as many as 50 Republicans. An easy majority.
Boehner and other Republican leaders refuse to do that because they are in thrall to Tea Party conservatives. Hard-line conservatives number about 50 out of 232 House Republicans. But those conservatives are threatening to lead an insurrection against party leaders if they dare to allow a vote. Other Republican members are terrified that they will face a tough primary challenge from the right if they don't go along with the Tea Party.
So what have we got? Minority government.
It's outrageous when you think about it. Hard-line conservatives are blocking majority rule so they can get their way. They insist they are taking a stand on principle. Why? "Because we're right , simply because we're right," one of them told the New York Times.
]What principle? The principle that the Affordable Care Act is an unconstitutional expansion of government power and that President Barack Obama is not a legitimate president.
But didn't the Supreme Court rule back in June that Obamacare is constitutional? It did. A Tea Party activist protested at the time, "Just because the Supreme Court says something is constitutional doesn't mean it is."
And didn't the voters re-elect Obama last year? They did. But hard-line conservatives insist that's only because Republicans put up a candidate who wasn't a true conservative.
Conservatives have a talent for denying facts. "The American people overwhelmingly reject Obamacare," Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Meet the Press, "They understand it's not working."
Do they? Well, the public has always been sceptical of the Affordable Care Act. Americans polled last week by Quinnipiac University were split over the new healthcare law - 45 per cent support it and 47 per cent oppose it.
But do they favour Congress cutting off funding for the law?