The clock is ticking for Congress to get things done. Here's what to know

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The timeline and the tactics of government spending -- past, present and future -- will converge in a series of hard and soft deadlines and one massive partisan standoff over the next month
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(CNN) Lawmakers are playing politics with the nation's pocketbook and the clock is ticking.

, and the end result could be any combination of:

We just don't know how this is going to play out.

Here are the key dates to watch:

September 27: A self-imposed deadline for the House to act on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, unlocking a path to the larger spending bill.

September 30: Government funding expires at midnight, which could trigger a partial shutdown.

Mid-October: The government reaches its borrowing limit, which could trigger a first-ever US default and a self-inflicted economic explosion if the US chooses not to pay its bills. It could halt paychecks to federal workers, Medicare benefits, military salaries, tax refunds, Social Security checks and payments to federal contractors.

What must pass to keep the country running? Democrats have tied the debt limit and the must-pass spending together, hoping to shame Republicans into helping raise the debt limit.

Republicans are determined to carry through on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's threat to make Democrats use partisan parliamentary tactics to both fund the government and raise the country's ceiling.

What else are lawmakers trying to accomplish? There's a There's a bipartisan infrastructure bill to repair the nation's roads and bridges and start other needed upgrades.

If Democrats can pass that bipartisan infrastructure bill, they might also be able to gain momentum to pass an even larger $3.5 trillion down payment on their effort to pivot the US economy toward renewable energy and address inequality through new spending programs.

Will Republicans allow votes on any of this? That's TBD, but probably not.

McConnell is pushing Republicans in the Senate to stay unified and brushing off the private pleas of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that failing to raise the debt limit…
Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
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