Throwing a late curve ball into work on raising the debt limit, Republicans in the House had to abandon efforts last night on the measure, unable to keep enough GOP lawmakers in line, even after five hours of off-the-floor arm twisting.
"As we all know, we were expecting a vote this evening, and the votes obviously were not there," said a somewhat downcast Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), a top lieutenant of Speaker John Boehner who led floor debate on the debt limit bill.
"It's apparent that we don't have the votes for a number of reasons," Dreier said just before midnight.
It was a surprising and embarrassing turn of events for Republicans, who seemed to have things under control for much of the day, until suddenly the signs started going the wrong way as rank-and-file GOP lawmakers refused to go along with calls to vote for the Speaker's debt limit plan.
GOP leaders tried to lean on a number of lawmakers like Rep. Bill Posey of Florida, who resisted the appeals of Speaker Boehner and other top Republicans, both during debate and for hours after the bill had been pulled off the floor of the House.
The arm twisting stretched into the night, as Republican leaders ordered multiple boxes of pizza and called in lawmakers for repeated meetings in the Capitol, trying to find a way to a majority in the House.
But it didn't work and they finally gave up just before 11pm.
The failure of Speaker Boehner to push this bill over the finish line in the House not only delayed work on a broader deal between the House and Senate, but again raised the question of whether there was even the political room for a deal.
"I really thought that this Congress and our President would have been able to tackle this issue head on and have it done by now," said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), as he used a Senate floor speech to bemoan a lack of compromise.
"Now is the time we really have to act," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), as he echoed Manchin's appeal for action.
Along with being a political setback for Speaker Boehner, the troubles in getting a bill through the House speak to a larger problem for both sides, that time is simply running out on this debt limit process before a Tuesday deadline.
The reason that Democrats have been waiting on Boehner - even as they have roundly attacked the Ohio Republican day after day - is that his bill is a much better legislative vehicle in the Senate, shielding Reid's plan from at least one round of time delaying filibusters and other procedural mischief.
It's not silly to say that Reid really needs Boehner to push his bill over the finish line, one reason that Reid has never filed cloture on his own bill all week long.
What's next? Most likely a hectic Friday and an agonizing weekend of work, with a big, fat Tuesday deadline on the debt limit.
I wasn't joking weeks ago when I said that lawmakers like to use deadlines for just about anything.
And now they seem like they're ready to try out how it works on the debt limit.