ALL 42 SENATE REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE HOSTAGE PLAN…. The AP had an item late last night, noting that Senate Republicans were circulating a letter, “quietly collecting signatures” on a plan to “block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending.”

This morning, the Senate GOP leadership unveiled their letter — signed by literally all 42 members of the Republican caucus — declaring their intention to hold the chamber hostage until the tax policy debate is resolved.

“[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”

In practical terms, this means that the Senate Republican caucus will join arms and kill literally every piece of legislation in the lame-duck session — New START, funding U.S. troops, the DREAM Act, etc. — until the government is fully funded and they’re satisfied with the outcome of the debate on tax policy.

When the letter was being circulated yesterday, there was some hope that some of the less-conservative members — the Maine “moderates,” for example — might not go along with the hostage-taking strategy. This morning, however, we learned that every Republican is on board with this plan. Even Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is saying our national security needs through the pending arms treaty must take a back seat to tax cuts.

Also note the context: President Obama hosted a meeting at the White House yesterday with congressional leaders of both parties, and afterwards, everyone was all smiles. There was a renewed commitment to try to work together, find common ground, with an emphasis on bipartisanship.

A few hours later, the hostage letter was circulated by the GOP leadership, and less than a day after the bipartisan confab, literally every member of the Senate Republican caucus effectively told the world, “Screw bipartisanship; we’re playing hardball until we get what we want on tax cuts for the wealthy.”

How Democrats — on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — respond to this gambit remains to be seen.

* Postscript: Also note the unstated truth behind the threat — Republicans will block literally everything until they’re satisfied, at which point, they’ll try to block literally everything anyway.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.