Updated 8:25 a.m. Friday
If one senator keeps his pledge, lawmakers may need to reach agreement well in advance of the Treasury's Aug. 2 default date
Given potential resistance to a compromise debt-limit bill in the Senate, the legislative deadline for avoiding default will likely come on Sunday, three days sooner than the Treasury's Tuesday deadline for presidential signature.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has signaled he will do everything in his power to delay passage of the type of bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely bring to the floor. Under Senate rules, wherein an individual senator can force multiple procedural votes and mandated debate time, DeMint will be able to postpone a final vote for roughly three days, according to one Senate aide.
DeMint has not backed down from his promise of delay. "I think it's better to take it past August 2 and wait for something that solves the problem," he recently told National Journal.
It's unclear whether DeMint will follow through with this promise, or whether it applies to every proposal under consideration aside from DeMint's preferred "Cut, Cap, and Balance" plan, which has already failed in the Senate. But it's a safe bet that DeMint won't like whatever Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and President Obama decide is the answer.
On Thursday night, House Speaker John Boehner failed to pass his proposal, which DeMint opposes. The House is expected to vote on Boehner's bill sometime Friday if the speaker can wrangle enough "yes" votes from the GOP ranks.
No one seems to know how, exactly, Reid will guide a debt-limit increase to a final Senate vote. There are too many variables to know exactly how long it will take, another Senate aide said.
On the substance of policy, multiple options remain. Boehner's plan could still pass the House. Reid's own bill is already pending on the Senate floor, though it may or may not see a vote. Reid and McConnell have been talking about an altered version of Reid's plan. The "Gang of Six" has its own plan.
Even if Reid calls a vote Friday night, on any of those plans, Sunday is the earliest the Senate could hold a final vote on it.
All this leaves precious little time to find a compromise. One aide speculated last week that the Senate would pass a bill, the House would change it, and the Senate would have to vote on it again -- meaning a potential for six days of delay from any senator who's unhappy with it.
More and more, it looks like either the House and Senate will have to come to agreement, or DeMint will have to back away from his pledge to obstruct a compromise bill.