“I have every confidence we will meet the deadline, one way or the other,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), McConnell’s top lieutenant on the leadership team. “Just how, I can’t tell you right this minute.”

Democrats said even a small-scale shutdown so soon on McConnell’s watch would hurt him politically. They believe it would set a precedent, with the far right wing pushing him around in the same manner that House conservatives have backed Boehner into corners he wanted to avoid.

“I think it’s a big problem,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber. “They said: We’re going to show we can run the trains on time and we are, quote, not scary. So if they start off by jeopardizing funding for the premier agency for America’s defense against terrorism — not a good start.”

There is time to avert a shutdown, but it almost certainly involves capitulation to the Democrats.