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The House Republican leadership, clearly desperate to avoid presiding over a government shutdown, floated a trial balloon to two conservative journalists suggesting a new plan to defund ObamaCare. Since threatening shutdown over defunding ObamaCare is, per the National Review, "messy," Republicans may just pursue a less politically dangerous path, like threatening to breach the debt limit.

Of course, you only have to think about that for two seconds to realize that doesn't make any sense. A government shutdown would dent the American economy, inconvenience millions and generally make Republicans look like children. But preventing the government from paying its bills would wreck the full faith and credit of the government and spark a global economic meltdown.

If Republicans are already flinching in mid-August from the prospect of a September 30th government shutdown, go ahead and do the math on how fast will it take them to back down once every Wall Street donor is screaming into their phones, demanding they stop the debt-limit insanity .

Remember, these Republicans have already flinched on a debt-limit showdown once this year, voting in January to outright suspend the debt limit without winning a single concession. And that was right after they caved on the repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

But while Republican leaders are clearly afraid of voter wrath if they induce a government shutdown or debt-limit breach, they are also afraid of telling their congressional caucus and the conservative grassroots the political truth. That leads to a lot of bluffing, procrastination and dysfunction, but eventually, caving.

They only kick the can for so long. At some point they have to vote on things, and that point is pretty soon.

The fear is visible and palpable. That fear, combined with the House Republicans' fracturing over specific budget cuts, strips Speaker John Boehner of all leverage once he has to sit down with Democrats to hammer out a budget compromise.

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