The end result of the shutdown could be not only a victory for extortion tactics by the minority party, but also long lasting damage to the safety net with cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Speaker John Boehner is telling his Republican colleagues that negotiations are taking place behind the scenes on the so-called ‘Grand Bargain’.

The revelation came quietly. Boehner called groups of members to his Capitol office all day, taking their temperature on the shutdown and the debt limit. It became clear, members say, that Boehner’s chief goal is conference unity as the debt limit nears, and he’s looking at potentially blending a government-spending deal and debt-limit agreement into a larger budget package

“It’s the return of the grand bargain,” says one House Republican, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “There weren’t a lot of specifics discussed, and the meetings were mostly about just checking in. But he’s looking hard at the debt limit as a place where we can do something big.”

President Obama had his legs taken out from under him last time this deal came around by his fellow Democrats in the House who were told explicitly by their constituents cutting Social Security and Medicare is unacceptable. But all indications were Obama wanted the deal.

Per sources, entitlement reforms, such as chained CPI, an elimination of the medical-device tax, and delays to parts of Obamacare are all on the table as trades for delaying aspects of sequestration and extending the debt limit. Camp, especially, is pushing to have a tax-reform framework included.

Maybe Boehner and friends are just delusional and the Democrats weren’t bluffing when they said they want a clean CR and a clean debt limit vote. In which case the House GOP are wasting their time. But in the event the Grand Bargain is back and supported by the White House, any Democratic unity will be obliterated.

It’s not too late for Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.