Amid Bickering, Government Shutdown Risk Looms

After weeks of assurances that there wouldn't be a government shutdown in this round of bickering, now there are threats of a government shutdown.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Lynn Neary.

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I'm Melissa Block.

Just when it seemed things couldn't get any uglier on Capitol Hill, they have. The fight over extending a payroll tax cut is jeopardizing funding for the federal government, which runs out Friday night. Republicans want a funding bill passed but Democrats insist on first resolving a tax cut.

NPR's David Welna has our story.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the House version of the payroll tax cut extension that that chamber passed last night is dead on arrival in the Senate. This morning, Reid noted that Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell had insisted that the House bill be taken up quickly.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Let's find out whether he has the votes in the Senate to pass what the House has passed. Let's vote on this now.

WELNA: Reid wanted to prove the bill could not pass the Senate, and thus set the stage for negotiating a compromise with the House. But GOP leader McConnell today reversed course and opposed voting on the House bill.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Our most immediate concern at this point is that despite federal funding expiring two days from now, Friday night, my friend the majority leader is blocking action on the funding bill that would keep the government open.

WELNA: Reid replied that the funding bill is stalled in negotiations.

REID: My friend is living in a world of non-reality.

WELNA: The reality underlying all the political posturing is that Democrats really don't want the House to vote on a funding bill and then leave town. That would force the Senate to accept or reject the House version of the payroll tax cut extension. It can only be amended if the House is forced to stay in town.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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