by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The clock is ticking as the U.S. Congress scrambles to pass a spending bill that would avert a government shutdown.
Democrats in the Senate have released a short-term bill to fund the government, which includes a measure that would hasten permits for energy projects.
The permits initiative is opposed by most Republican lawmakers and some Democrats, and Congress has seen much squabbling over the issue in recent days.
Congress needs to pass a government funding bill by Friday at midnight.
Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate want to avoid any uncertainty just weeks from one of the most significant midterm elections in decades.
Included in the bill is 12.4 billion U.S. dollars to Ukraine, for use in the conflict with Russia. The bill would also allow the White House to transfer to Ukraine around 3.7 billion dollars worth of defense equipment.
The bill would provide 2 billion dollars for disasters and 1 billion dollars for assistance in heating homes, and funds to resettle refugees from Afghanistan as well.
Chances of a government shutdown are not particularly high, as lawmakers have the ability to remove the measure regarding permits if senators decide to block funding due to that measure.
Should a so-called shutdown occur, crucial government services, from police to fire departments to military, will remain open.
The timing of the Congressional brouhaha reflects a pattern that's become common over the past decade -- that of playing brinkmanship until the last minute and risking a shutdown of some government services.
Key in the negotiations is how the public views the issue, as neither party wants to be blamed for failure to fund some parts of the federal government so close to a crucial midterm election.
Moreover, many in Congress are champing at the bit to finish up the legislation so they can return to their districts for the final weeks of campaigning, in the lead up to the November elections.
Year after year, the two sides have always passed a funding bill, although it's often been at the 11th hour.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua: "I don't think there will be a government shutdown because Congress is passing a continuing resolution that maintains funding and resolves the situation."
"Both parties want to avoid a crisis right now given everything happening around the world," West said.
"There is little desire to play brinkmanship right before an important election. Each side wants to put a positive face before the electorate," West said.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua: "I think Congress has a tremendous incentive to get a funding bill done. Democrats control the White House and Congress, so a shutdown would only make them look terrible less than six weeks out from the midterms."
"Congress needs to act quickly and it's quite possible a misstep at the wrong time could slow things down," Galdieri added.