As a quick note, it's important to remember that since 2003, everybody knew that the Bush tax cuts would expire in 2010, but the debate dragged big time during the lameduck session last year. And this is also happening with the debt ceiling. Rand Paul gave an interview to Christiane Amanpour the week after the 2010 midterm, and said that he would vote against raising the debt ceiling. When Amanpour tells him that the US would then default, Paul argues that this would only be the case if the Republicans actually won the vote, implicitly saying that he thought that his position was a minority one. What he wanted was, in the pure tradition of Washington protest speaking, "to send a message to Washington"(to pronounce with the accent).
That is to say that there is a frustrating shortsightedness among US politicians which is quite annoying.