US Senate blocks effort to keep govt going

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A sharply divided US Senate has failed to advance a measure to suspend the federal debt ceiling and avoid a partial government shutdown, as Republican lawmakers denied the bill the votes necessary to move forward.

The legislation by President Joe Biden's Democrats was aimed at beating two fast-approaching deadlines that, if left unaddressed, threaten to destabilise the US economy as it struggles to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday's near party-line vote of 48 votes to advance against 50 opposed fell short of the 60 votes needed to push the bill ahead.

Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress, now have just three days to find another way to keep the government operating beyond Thursday, when current funding expires.

Lawmakers also will have to figure out how to raise the debt ceiling to head off the risk of default, with independent analysts warning the US Treasury is likely to exhaust its borrowing authority between October 15 and November 4.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the party would take further action this week to avoid a shutdown and debt default.

"Our country is now staring down the barrel of two Republican-manufactured disasters," he said.

A shutdown or a default would be a huge hit to Biden's Democrats, who have positioned themselves as the party of responsible government after Republican Donald Trump's chaotic presidency.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tried unsuccessfully to force the chamber to vote for a funding extension, separate from the provision that would suspend the government's $US28.4 trillion ($A39 trillion) debt limit through the end of 2022.

Republicans want Democrats to lift the debt limit on their own, saying they do not support their spending plans. Democrats point out that much of the nation's new debt was incurred during Trump's administration.

Democrats are also at odds over Biden's $US1 trillion infrastructure bill and a $US3.5 trillion social spending package.

The rift risks derailing Biden's presidency and the party's hopes of keeping its congressional majorities in next year's midterm elections.

Biden spent the weekend negotiating with lawmakers over the phone, according to administration officials. He told reporters that Democrats might not reach an agreement this week.

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