Remember the new spirit of cooperation in Washington? That's so last week.
The era of good feeling is over. Thirty-six Senate Republicans -- 80 percent of the caucus -- recently voted against the budget compromise drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, last year's Republican vice presidential nominee.
Already, Republicans, including Ryan, are making noises about another showdown early next year over the federal government's debt limit. You might say they've returned to their default position.
By Thursday, Senate leaders were back to petty bickering. Harry Reid, the majority leader, called Republicans "very shallow" and said "obstruction has become a bad habit."
Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, accused Democrats of an "incredible abuse of power" and of running the country like a "banana republic." The Republican said he was discouraged to "see the way the United States Senate deteriorated under the current leadership."
In retrospect, how could it have been otherwise? These aren't conventional political rivals we're talking about. They are more like warring mafia families. James Gandolfini may have left us in 2013, but the spirit of the mob boss still dominates in the Capitol.
The political killings are accomplished by syndicates known as the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, run by the senators themselves with the goal of unseating rivals across the aisle.
Earlier this month, when bipartisanship was still in the air, Reid told Bloomberg's Al Hunt that he wouldn't campaign against McConnell, who is facing a difficult reelection.
That was a bit disingenuous, because Reid had already hosted a fundraiser in Las Vegas for McConnell's Democratic opponent, and Reid's political action committee had already given her money.
But in calling himself a traditionalist, Reid was arguing against the mafia culture that has gripped the Senate since 2004, when Bill Frist, then the Republican leader, went to South Dakota to campaign, successfully, for the defeat of then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle. The DSCC, under Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, retaliated by running TV ads targeting McConnell in 2008. In 2012, the NRSC, run by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, raised money to try to defeat Reid in Nevada. The political committees are under the de facto control of the majority or minority leader, and several senators have used the chairmanships as steppingstones to leadership.
When they aren't ordering hits on each other, the senators use the committees to taunt each other. Last week, the Republican committee issued a statement saying: "Harry Reid will tell you he's not concerned about losing the majority -- hell, Reid will say just about anything on most days, but his actions speak louder than his words." When your day starts with trash talk from people who are trying to kill you politically, is it any wonder things quickly devolve?
Reid, on the Senate floor this week, accused Republicans of "hostage-taking" and ridiculed McConnell for delaying what the GOP leader called "non-essential" confirmations: "Does the Republican leader consider the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security -- the individual tasked with protecting us from terrorist attacks -- 'non-essential'?"
McConnell, in turn, told reporters he "can't imagine" Republicans would agree to increase the debt limit without more spending restrictions. And he delivered a broadside against Reid for stripping Republicans' right to filibuster nominees: "As we end the year, it's a tragedy the way the Senate is being run into the ground by basically one person. . . . It's going to be hard to get the Senate back to normal."
But he's wrong there. Going to the mattresses is the new normal.