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 LewJack LewCEO group urges Congress to act on proposed tax rules IRS doubted legality of ObamaCare payments, former official says Overnight Finance: GOP makes its case for impeaching IRS chief | Clinton hits Trump over housing crash remarks | Ryan's big Puerto Rico win 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 CruzTed CruzDems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Meet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Party chairs see reversal of fortune 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 ManchinJoe ManchinSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Dem senator: Sanders ‘doesn’t have a lot of answers’ Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges 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 LeeMike LeeMeet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Overnight Cybersecurity: Guccifer plea deal raises questions in Clinton probe Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns MORE (R-Utah) tried to slow it down.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyOvernight Cybersecurity: Guccifer plea deal raises questions in Clinton probe Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise 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.