Will Congress avoid another government shutdown?

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After a five-week recess, members of Congress will gather in Washington to squeeze out a few last weeks of work before all attention turns to the upcoming midterm elections. And while several issues can be punted until after the campaign frenzy dies down, one cannot: they must pass at least a short-term spending bill to keep the government running after Sept. 30.

Last year, the same fight resulted in a 16-day shutdown of the federal government as Republicans attempted to use their leverage to cut funding for the Affordable Care Act. The public rewarded the GOP with low approval ratings, and because of that, former lawmakers and staffers believe this time Congress will figure out a way to avoid a shutdown.

"There will be no government shutdown this fall. That hurts every incumbent on both sides of the aisle, so it won't happen," John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former congressional aide, told CBS News.

Republicans are going to begin working on the bill as early as this week, according to a House leadership aide.

That doesn't mean there won't be a bit of bickering in the process.

Several conservative organizations and some like-minded members of Congress are threatening a fight over the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. businesses sell overseas. Its funding runs out on Sept. 30 as well and the momentum seems to be headed funding it short-term and punting the fight until after the election.

"The political will to make a stand before the election is not there," former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, told CBS News about the bank issue. "Republicans recognize that shutting down the government would be just a disaster for them."

Another sign that a shutdown likely isn't in the cards is that many of the major players behind last year's shutdown are saying it's a nonstarter this time around.

"There is one person and one person only talking about shutting down the government, and that is the White House," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told the Washington Post. Cruz helped solidify the GOP base around the strategy to tie government funding to Obamacare last fall.

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, echoed the idea that Democrats have been pushing the shutdown talk, saying in an interview with Fox Business Network that "nobody has any interest in doing that."

Democrats began sounding the alarm last month after a few comments from high-profile Republicans that suggested gridlock was still the best way to achieve their political goals.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, for instance, suggested he was interested to see "what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms" to block the president from taking executive action on immigration.

Mr. Obama had promised to make changes to immigration law himself, without congressional involvement, by the end of summer. But on Saturday, a White House official said that any executive actions are being pushed until after the election because of Republicans' "extreme politicization of the issue."

For any Republicans, like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who might have seen the short-term spending bill as a way to block the president from taking action, there's no longer a reason to do it.

Still, there could be some potential fireworks along the way.

"I'm not sure in light of what the president just did that they'll be able to make the case for an amendment related to immigration, but I still think there will be an attempt to force the administration's hands on alleged overregulation of industry especially when it comes to energy," Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told CBS News.

But, Manley said, "In the end I'm confident that Congress will be able to pass a short-term spending bill that punts key decisions to some point in the future, probably the middle of December."

Davis also raised the possibility that Democrats might be the ones to try to add some conditions to the spending bill if it seems like Republicans will accept it no matter what.

"Democrats may say, 'well if they retreat this handily, let's see what we can add to this.' They may not make it quite so easy," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.