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Will the GOP take the economy hostage?

What’s worse than a government shutdown? Total economic collapse.

What’s worse than a government shutdown? Total economic collapse.

It took a while for Republicans to catch on, but they’ve finally accepted that threats of a government shutdown will not kill Obamacare. The shutdown movement--pioneered by Tea Party favorites like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio--has lost steam in recent weeks. None of the Republican leadership is on board with the plan, and even regular Tea Party allies like Rand Paul have thrown cold water on the idea.

Now, in the latest game of brinksmanship in Congress, there’s a tactic taking shape: threatening a global financial collapse.

Several reports--from National Review, the Washington Examiner, and Talking Points Memo, among others--say unnamed Republicans are mulling a strategy to combine debt ceiling negotiations with demands to delay or defund the Affordable Health Care Act.

The implicit threat: if you don’t destroy Obamacare, we will destroy the economy.

There’s wide-ranging consensus that a government default--the result of breaching the debt ceiling--would be disastrous for the American and global economies. The consequences would be felt in nearly every aspect of economic existence, from getting a loan to using your credit card, not to mention the collateral damage to the stocks and bonds tucked away in retirement accounts and pensions.

But if Republican leadership didn’t go along with a threat to shut down the government, why would they go along with something even more extreme?

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner was non-committal when asked about the strategy, saying only that “no decisions have been made” but that GOP lawmakers were “looking at all options to reach our ultimate goal of repealing this law that is causing premiums to soar and full-time jobs to disappear."

Granted, it’s likely that Republicans are floating trial balloons with the conservative media to test the reaction to such a strategy. It’s also possible that GOP leaders, having led their far right believers to think that repealing the Affordable Care Act is a realistic goal, are afraid to disillusion them.

But there's an old saying: "Don't take a hostage that you aren't prepared to shoot." If Republicans take the world's economy hostage by refusing to negotiate the debt ceiling, are they really prepared to pull the trigger?