The latest development: Democrats and Republicans agreed to a deal late Tuesday that would include funding for flooding victims in a spending bill to keep the government open for two months, and then include funding for the water crisis in Flint, Mich., in a separate water bill. Senate Democrats blocked the spending bill Tuesday afternoon because they were concerned Republicans weren't going to fund Flint at all.
But despite this 11th-hour hiccup, The Fix's team of budget experts still aren't that worried about a government shutdown: There just isn't the political appetite for it on either side, they say.
Here's what they predict will happen:
Congress will pass a short-term budget this week ...
On Tuesday, the spending bill hit a snag. When Senate Democrats found out the spending bill didn't contain any money for Flint, they blocked it. Republicans promised to put the money in a separate bill, but Democrats were skeptical. (Nobody trusts anybody in Congress these days.)
"'Trust me, we will consider Flint later -- that's like nothing to me," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday.
But on Tuesday night, House Republicans put their promise to action and voted to include Flint aid in a separate water bill. Now both sides have a spending bill they can vote for.
That's particularly good news for congressional Republican leaders. The last thing they want is a shutdown on their hands a month before an election where Republicans' control of Congress could be up for grabs.
"Nobody wants to see this get dragged out," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
… But it's not out of the woods yet
Even though none of the congressional leaders want a shutdown, you can't count out one entirely, says Stan Collender, a prominent budget analyst also known as @thebudgetguy.
"Things are so screwy," he said. "You've got Republicans fighting Republicans in the House, you've got Republicans fighting Republicans in the Senate. You've got the election. You've got Donald Trump. You've got so many different things going on that it's hard to just say 'No, it's not going to happen.'"
Not to mention a shutdown is "like a campaign event," for some of these folks in ultraconservative, anti-Washington districts, Collender said.
Still, as Brookings Institution's Molly Reynolds points out, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) may not mind upsetting conservatives this time around, if it comes to that: The House Republican seats most likely to flip are not held by conservative members who could campaign on a shutdown, they're held by more moderate members who need to campaign on the government running.
Congress could have another fight on its hands in December
But once Congress approves this budget, we'll be back on shutdown watch. That's because the spending bill Congress passes by Friday means the government must be funded again in early December.
"This is when the real tough stuff starts," says Steve Bell, the director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Congress will have basically kicked all the problems I just described above down the road — a debate over what's in the budget, unresolved ideological and philosophical battles between Republicans — and added on the potentially power-changing 2016 election results. Will there be a Democratic president and a slightly more Democratic Congress that want to make its own budget? A Republican president and a Democratic Congress? Any other combination in between?
"There are some pretty big differences that will have to be worked out, especially if Hillary Clinton is elected," Bell said.
To sum up, our experts say it looks like we've avoided a government shutdown for now. But thanks to the unsolved dysfunction in Congress, the potential for a shutdown is almost always lurking around the corner.