Concerned their party is painting itself into a corner, some Republicans are trying to find a way out of the congressional showdown over a House-passed bill that would keep the government open past Sept. 30 only if lawmakers agree to defund ObamaCare.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Monday is expected to start the process of setting up a test vote on the House bill.
Reid and his fellow Democrats, naturally, want to strip out the provision defunding the health law.
Republicans don't want that. So Tea Party-aligned senators like Ted Cruz have rallied around an only-in-Washington kind of approach -- in order to defend the House bill which they supported, they will try to block Reid from calling it up.
But this raises a perplexing question: Even if Republicans can muster the votes to block the bill, what then?
The approach threatens to end in a stalemate, with the Senate holding on to a bill and neither chamber, then, voting on anything that would keep the government open past Sept. 30. Congress hasn't passed a bona fide budget since 2009, forcing the government to operate on a series of short-term spending bills -- this practice sets up periodic deadlines, and opens the door each time to the risk of a shutdown.
Some Republicans and Democrats are now looking for a resolution, worried about the political blowback from a shutdown.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., suggested Monday that his fellow Republicans set the bar a bit lower, aiming instead to repeal "some of the really egregious things" in the law.
Dec. 5, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill.AP
Payments to doctors, the price of milk, long-term jobless benefits and more are all on the line this week as lawmakers scramble to beat several end-of-year deadlines -- and all by Friday.
Though Dec. 31 is still a few weeks away, congressional sources say the House plans to adjourn at the end of this week. With the Senate returning from its latest recess on Monday, that leaves just five days when both chambers are in session.