How do over 500 men and women sworn to uphold and defend Constitutional duties that include "the power of the purse" keep government running after 12:01 a.m. Tuesday?
It appears simple: pass an identical funding bill in both chambers of Congress. Fund the government temporarily and figure the rest out later.
That's what the Democrats want, a "clean" funding bill paying for already authorized expenditures. And it would work too. Known as a continuing resolution, the straightforward funding bill would keep everything from government licensing to state parks and the Bureau of Labor Statistics running at full capacity until that resolution expires in mid-November.
The not so simple bit: Republicans don't want a "clean" continuing resolution. They want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Why? Because they argue the funding of the government is the only option available to stop a bill which they say is not ready for prime time, that will force people from their health insurance plans and inspire businesses not to hire but to reduce employee hours rather than provide them health insurance.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have already passed a bill their way, returning the Senate's "clean" bill with one passed early Sunday morning with a one-year ACA delay, a repeal of a medical device tax helping to fund the bill and a "conscience clause" that would allow employers to opt-out from providing coverage they find objectionable, namely contraceptive care for women.
Democrats have vowed to go for precisely none of these things. President Barack Obama has said he won't negotiate on government funding and the upcoming debt limit legislation at the cost of the Affordable Care Act.
Senate Democrats have the president's back. Once the Senate convenes Monday afternoon they're expected to once again ignore the ACA riders in the House funding bill and use their 54-46 majority to pass a "clean" bill that funds the health care law and everything else.
Then the bill would go back to the House of Representatives with just a few hours remaining until the midnight deadline. Then, shutdown.
What about the messy in-between? The so-called compromise in a body of government with approval ratings hovering near all-time lows.
One possibility that just might work, maybe, would be for the Democrats to give their Republican colleagues just one piece of what they want that would leave the ACA chugging along.
Democrats could leave in the medical device tax repeal. Since some congressional Democrats have voted in the past to repeal the tax from the health care law, it's potentially one of the most negotiable points of the health care law. But Senate Democrats say they won't negotiate on the tax, which charges a small percentage on all medical devices, from hearing aids to pacemakers, as part of the continuing resolution process.
--CNN's Dana Bash and Bryan Koenig contributed to this report.