Before the midterms, conservative leaders were warning that they’d force a showdown over federal spending much earlier than expected: in the lame duck session, before the newly elected Republicans come to Washington. They weren’t joking. Republican and Democratic leaders are now engaged in a brinksmanship that could result in a temporary shutdown of the federal government. After the election, Republicans voted among themselves to eschew all earmarks for two years, and now they have to make good on their pledge. Yesterday, Democrats’ chief appropriator, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) unveiled what’s known as an omnibus spending bill — a bundled up package of appropriations legislation, earmarks, and other measures — which would keep the government running for a year. In response, most Republicans — even those whose multimillion dollar earmark requests are included in the legislation — are saying, "Hell no you can’t!" That puts them all in an awkward position. At a press conference this morning, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Thune (R-SD) were at pains to explain away why they requested earmarks that appear in the bill they’re now railing against. But it also sets the two parties up for a standoff — and one side must blink by this weekend, or the lights will start going out in the federal government.