(Reuters) - Congress has just days to pass an increase in the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline and the federal government starts running out money to pay all its bills.
Lawmakers are watching the clock and figuring out how to pass a bill through the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-controlled House of Representatives and get it to President Barack Obama’s desk for signing before Tuesday.
Here is a rundown of how it could work. As with everything in Congress, this scenario could change dramatically.
* The House is expected to vote around 6:00 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) on a Republican bill that would raise the debt ceiling by enough to cover the nation’s borrowing needs for a few months, requiring a second debt-limit vote before the November 2012 election.
* If the House passes the bill as expected, the Senate could take it up immediately and defeat it.
* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could use the House bill as a legislative vehicle for any compromise he hammers out with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
* That would set up a procedural vote on Sunday as early as 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT). Sixty votes would be needed to clear that hurdle.
* If that vote succeeds, a vote on final passage would come around 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT) on Monday, unless all 100 senators agree to vote before then.
* The measure would then go back to the House. At that point the House could accept what the Senate has given them and deliver it to Obama for his signature, or change it and send it back to the Senate.
* Alternatively, Reid could advance his bill on its own. That would require an additional procedural vote, pushing back final passage in the Senate until 1:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) on Tuesday unless every senator agrees to vote before then.
* Reid would probably have to take this route if the Republican bill fails to pass the House.
Reporting by Donna Smith, Andy Sullivan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Chris Wilson