As members of Congress returned to Washington on Monday, they were nagged by a troubling question: What are the odds of another government shutdown by next week?
Ten days are left until a deadline to fund federal programs and operations going forward.
So far, no specific threats to jeopardize spending legislation have been issued.
But many GOP lawmakers are still boiling over President Obama's unilateral action on immigration issues.
A key to averting real trouble is whether House Speaker John Boehner will be able to lower their heat index and rein them in from pushback efforts that could scuttle bipartisan support on appropriations.
Brian Bilbray, a former San Diego-area congressman, said the immigration issue is a fight that can be picked later.
"Implementation of the executive amnesty is not going to happen in the next month, and so there's time to address the budget situation this month," the Republican veteran of six terms in the House told NBC 7 in an interview Monday.
"So you can approve everything, and then address this issue with the Homeland Security budget."
The president's backers also have time, and the numbers, to foil a challenge to his immigration order.
“Now, anything the House did is not going to be approved of in the Senate, for obvious reasons,” says Democratic political strategist Jon Elliott. “The Democrats will flex their muscles up until it's the last minute."
Elliott thinks Boehner would offer this warning to party dissidents: that the Republicans would shoulder the bulk of the blame if the government goes on hiatus again, as it did for 16 days last fall.
"Do you really want to be silly enough the shut down the government after you supposedly told us people want you to get things done?” Elliott asked, rhetorically. “I don't see how that strategy would benefit them at all."
And what strategy would most benefit the White House, long-term?
"The president has to decide what he wants to do in the last two years of this administration,” said Bilbray. “And if he wants to do anything that last from now on, he's got to find a common ground with the senators and the congressmen who have to pass the laws to be his legacy."
Dec. 11 is the deadline for legislation to bankroll government operations.
Whatever the fate of immigration reform and affordable health care, Bilbray believes the man in the Oval Office is "on notice": "Now he's got all of Congress saying: 'Look, we will work with you, but we're not going to work for you. And those are co-equal. The president now has to understand what Bill Clinton did -- and did very well — of reaching out and saying 'OK, what can we agree on?'"
Meantime, the five members of San Diego County’s congressional delegation were asked to weigh in on the situation Monday by phone or email.
Said Frederick Hill, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49th): “Rep. Issa does not envision a government shutdown happening.”
Duncan D. Hunter (R-50th): “The Speaker is looking at this situation from several different angles and the conference is sure to discuss the options in more detail over the next several days. There’s consensus that the President has overstepped but how to address the issue — in order to maximize the opportunity for success — is something we’ll have to consider more closely.”
Juan Vargas (D-51st): “I am hopeful that the House Republicans will work together within their own caucus to avoid a government shutdown. With his Executive Action, President Obama did what he could within his legal authority to fix our broken immigration system. If the Republicans are opposed to this measure, we are eager to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, and prevent a government shut down.”
Scott Peters (D-52nd): “I do think that the prospect of a shutdown is unlikely. And that obviously didn't go too well for them last time. I think they learned their lesson, and I think we ought to at least be able to fund the government through the end of the year."
Susan Davis, (D-53rd): "If the Speaker truly cares about having bipartisan substantive achievements, there’s nothing to stop him."