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Clock ticks to government shutdown as Democrats eye short-term funding bill

The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday before sending it to the House. The deadline to avert a shutdown is Thursday at midnight.

WASHINGTON — The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday to extend government funding, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as the deadline to avoid a shutdown Thursday night fast approaches.

Schumer, D-N.Y., said the issue "demands the immediate attention of this chamber" as Democrats weigh a short-term funding measure through early Dec. 3, without adding on the debt limit extension that prompted Republicans to filibuster it.

"We can approve this measure quickly and send it to the house so it can reach the president's desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow," he said.

If the Senate clears the bill, the House could pass it quickly and keep the government open.

"I would expect" a "clean" funding extension without the debt limit increase, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told NBC News. "I don't think anybody's particularly hungry for another shutdown."

Republicans say they support the provisions to keep the government funded but oppose the debt ceiling extension, which allows the U.S. to pay bills that both parties have accrued.

Debt limit standoff intensifies

The House on Wednesday passed a temporary extension of the debt limit, sending that measure to the Senate after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had ruled out the idea of using the reconciliation process.

The vote was 219-212, with two Democrats voting no and just one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voting yes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly insisted that Democrats should put that provision in their party-line budget bill, which remains up in the air as Democratic leaders continue to work through a range of disputes within their ranks.

McConnell reiterated that demand on Tuesday, saying Democrats should do it "on their own" through the complicated budget process that allows them to bypass a filibuster.

Schumer has rejected that request, saying it could cause a default sparked by "Republican stupidity."

"This body cannot and will not go through a drawn-out, unpredictable process sought by the Minority Leader. It risks the full faith and credit of the United States," Schumer said on Wednesday. "To do this through reconciliation requires ping-ponging separate bills back from the Senate and the House. It's uncharted waters."

On Tuesday afternoon, Schumer and McConnell clashed on the Senate floor after the Democratic majority leader made a formal request for the GOP to drop its filibuster and allow a vote on a bill to extend the debt limit through the regular process, which would allow Democrats to pass it on their own.

McConnell rejected that, again pushing Democrats to use the separate budget reconciliation process.

Kyle Stewart contributed.