According to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, unless Congress acts by Oct. 17, the government will lose its ability to borrow, and would be required to meet its obligations relying only on cash on hand and incoming tax receipts.
While it was unclear how long that would suffice, the date stood as a deadline. The closer it approached, the more urgent became the pleas of businesses and bankers in this country as well as officials overseas for the United States to put its finances into order.
Whatever the outcome, the all-out assault on Obamacare that became a tea party rallying cry last summer was long gone, repulsed by the president and his Democratic allies in Congress.
Instead, Republican disapproval ratings have plummeted in public opinion polls in the past two weeks, vindicating warnings from Boehner, McConnell and other party elders that the original strategy of threatening to shut down the government in hopes of wiping out the overhaul was badly flawed.
"We got ourselves in a ditch," McCain said. "And we got to stop digging."
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Andrew Taylor, Henry C. Jackson, Julie Pace and Alan Fram contributed to this report.