Senate could still miss debt deadline

A lone senator could push the nation past the Oct. 17 debt-limit deadline even if a bipartisan deal is reached.

Senate leaders on Monday indicated they are inching towards a compromise deal to fund the government and raise the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing cap before the nation is at risk of default.

Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE has warned Congress the nation will be left with just $30 billion in cash by Oct. 17, and could be in danger of being unable to pay its bills beyond that point.

But if a senator or group of senators wanted to prolong the process as long as possible, experts warn, the Senate could blow right past that deadline even if there are enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

"People should recognize that it is going to be a major legislative effort to get any deal that's reached passed by the end of Thursday," warned Steve Bell, a longtime Republican Senate staffer who is now with the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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Whether the Senate will be able to advance a compromise before the Treasury deadline will hinge almost entirely on whether any senator decides to exhaust their procedural powers fighting the measure.

"If [senators] want to really be as obstreperous as the rules of the Senate would allow them, I don't think you could pass a deal ... until the weekend," said Bell. "That's the worst case scenario."

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUS-China trade war is just the start of the struggle for global order Dem lawmaker: Migrant family separation policy 'is on all of us' Cruz wins charity basketball challenge against Jimmy Kimmel MORE (R-Texas) did almost everything he could to delay work on a continuing resolution to fund the government, even holding a 21-hour speech on the Senate floor.

Cruz on Monday declined to say whether he could get behind a deal that didn't make significant changes to ObamaCare, and wouldn't give any indication as to whether he'd try to block it.

"We need to see what the details are first," Cruz said.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin touts support for Trump border wall in new ad Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms White House was in talks with Manchin to lead Veterans Affairs: report MORE (D-W.Va.), who has been involved in compromise talks with centrist members, said Monday the contours of a final deal could influence whether conservative senators like Cruz or Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGraham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult Liberal groups launches ads against prospective Trump Supreme Court nominees Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens MORE (R-Utah) tried to slow it down.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyStudent rips DeVos at school safety commission for failure to take on guns DeVos: Safety commission won’t focus on role of guns in school violence Stakeholder group urges Senate panel to fund Amtrak, Northeast Corridor MORE (D-Vt.) acknowledged that passage of a deal could take a while due to procedural tactics.

"If we had grownups who care more about the country than their own political future and the kind of fundraising they can do from a small ideological group, then I'd be very confident," he said. 

The Treasury has not said the government would default Friday without a debt-limit boost, but warned that it could no longer guarantee the government would be able to pay all its bills on any given day.

At best, many outside experts believe the government could pay all its bills until Nov. 1, when roughly $60 billion in payments on things like Social Security and Medicare come due.

— Erik Wasson and Bernie Becker contributed.