BOEHNER STRUGGLES TO FIND ‘ADULTS’ WITHIN HIS PARTY…. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is well aware of the fact that his chamber is going to have to extend the federal debt limit. Late last week, he noted that’s already “made it pretty clear” to his own caucus that Republicans are “going to have to deal with it as adults.” He added, “Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”

How’s that working out so far? Not too well.

Rep.-elect Bill Johnson of Ohio said those who ran on such messages didn’t intend to reverse themselves now. “Most of us agreed that to increase the limit would be a betrayal of what we told voters we would do,” he said. GOP leaders hope to package a debt-limit vote with significant spending cuts, making it easier for Republicans to vote for it. But it isn’t clear that will be enough for many of the GOP freshmen.

What’s fascinating about this to me is the twisted notion of popular support. If lawmakers balk and refuse to raise the debt limit, the United States goes into default, signaling to the world that the country isn’t in a position to repay its debts. U.S. treasuries, considered the safest investment on the planet, would no longer have the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States. The result is a government shutdown — and quite possibly a massive catastrophe.

And as far as guys like Bill Johnson are concerned, the electorate will be fine with all of this.

Also note the likelihood of an extortion/hostage dynamic. To hear the Ohio freshman put it, Republicans may tell the White House, “Slash spending the way we want or the global economic system gets it right between the eyes.” But also note the next sentence in that paragraph — even if the president paid the ransom, some Republicans still may not be willing to do the right thing.

It’s not just the House, either. Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R) of Utah has vowed to oppose any efforts to raise the debt ceiling. Told that his approach would likely create a global disaster, Lee said, “That presupposes that we continue spending at unsustainable rates. I’m not going to vote to increase the debt ceiling.”

The incoming House Speaker wants his fellow Republicans to act like “adults”? That sounds like a good idea, but the child-to-grown-up ratio in the GOP caucuses suggests Boehner’s challenge isn’t going to be easy.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.