There is a slim, though very real, chance that the government will shut down for the second time in as many years — if only for a few hours this time.
Government funding runs out at midnight Thursday. But the $1.1 trillion spending bill before Congress includes a provision, added late in the haggling process, that would roll back part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law that forces banks to reduce their risky assets, potentially putting the government on the hook for bad Wall Street dealing.
So House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) marshaled her whole caucus to oppose a procedural vote on the bill Thursday afternoon. And even if the measure passes the House, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is urging her colleagues in the majority to spike it in the upper chamber.
"A vote for this bill is a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street," she said on the Senate floor following the House vote.
It's not unthinkable that liberal Democrats and populist Republicans could join together and block the bill in the Senate. Or, if they come up short on votes, perhaps Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) or someone else would filibuster a vote past midnight, resulting in a brief shutdown.
It's a longshot, to be sure. But if the last year taught us anything, it's that Washington needs time to get anything done. Right now, time is not a luxury they have.