Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved Monday to set up legislative alternatives to fund the government, in case they are needed to avert a shutdown.
Reid filed cloture on a bill that already passed the House to use it as a possible vehicle to fund the government.
The bill cancels a program allowing taxpayers to voluntarily fund presidential campaigns but Reid could attach, as an amendment, a continuing resolution to fund the government.
The Senate process requires that after cloture is filed, the bill must ripen for one day and one hour before the entire body can vote on whether to bring it to the floor for debate, which requires a 60 vote threshold. Then, the legislation is up for debate for 30 hours. Lawmakers can choose to pass a bill without debate, but controversial bills usually take up the entire debate time.
The government will shut down on March 4th if Congress does not pass a funding measure. By filling cloture on the campaign finance bill, it can be used as a vehicle for moving a continuing resolution if necessary, according to a Senate aide.
In other actions on Monday, the Senate unanimously confirmed two judicial nominees, Amy Totenberg and Steve Jones, and heard the introduction of several amendments to the Patent Reform Act.
The Senate adjourned for the evening at 7.02 p.m and is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday at 10 a.m. for further debate on the Patent Reform Act.
-- Erik Wasson contributed.