Let me make us the last political blog on the planet to note events in the House yesterday, wherein an outbreak of spine among moderate Republicans triggered an almost total meltdown of the Republican command structure.

Empowered by Democratic unanimity, Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH) led a group of 25 moderate House R’s (anybody got a list of these folks?) in demanding that Arctic Refuge drilling be stripped from the budget-reconciliation bill.

Bass’ group is insisting the deal last “through conference," meaning they won’t vote for it if it reemerges from conference committee with drilling reinserted.

But remember, for some in the House, refuge drilling is the white friggin’ whale. It’s Moby Dick. So of course a group of Ahabs put their foot down when they heard their precious whale might escape.

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Thus, even after this pained concession, Republican leadership and unity broke down and the vote was delayed until next Tuesday.

(Meanwhile, in the Senate, Olympia Snowe put the kibosh on the Bush administration’s treasured extension of tax cuts for dividends and capital gains.)

Fireworks will resume next week. It’s been pretty good drama so far, but if these House moderates stay strong, and the budget reconciliation bill dies, it will be a major story — a very public knee to the groin of the House Republican leadership, legendary for its ability to twist arms.

You know how it works for a bully — once he gets his first ass kicking, he can never recapture the old mystique.

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Stay tuned.

(Good thoughts from Carl Pope, Matt Yglesias, and Mark Schmitt.)