President Obama at local food bank.
(Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)
WASHINGTON - Senate leaders said Monday they are close to an agreement to reopen government and avoid an unprecedented U.S. debt default before the Thursday deadline.
"We hope with good fortune and the support of all you (senators) -recognizing how hard this is for everybody - that perhaps tomorrow will be a bright day," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday evening on the Senate floor.
A flurry of negotiations occurred throughout the day as Reid and his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, engaged with each other, their own members, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and White House staff on the terms of a deal to end the budget impasse, which has kept the government partially shutdown since Oct. 1.
McConnell said Monday morning, "I share his optimism that we will get a result that is acceptable to both sides."
The draft proposal still under negotiation would approve a stopgap funding bill to reopen government through Jan. 15; suspend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7; and create the framework for formal budget negotiations to conclude by Dec. 15 with long-term recommendations for funding levels and deficit reduction.
The proposal does not include any significant reforms to the Affordable Care Act, which is what House Republicans were originally seeking in the budget stand-off. House Republicans initially refused to approve a stopgap spending bill unless it delayed or defunded President Obama's signature health care law.
Democrats have said they are willing to discuss ways to reform the law - including the repeal of a 2.3% tax on medical devices enacted to help pay for Obamacare - in the budget negotiations but not in the short-term spending/debt deal.
It is unclear whether Boehner can support the proposal, or if he will allow a vote on it if a majority of House Republicans oppose it. However, House Republicans ceded negotiations to Senate leaders after Obama rejected Boehner's most recent terms for a short-term debt ceiling increase.
Boehner met with McConnell on Monday and House Republican leaders met privately afterward, but they have not weighed in publicly on the talks. House Republican leaders are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning with their members.
There appears to be more support among Republicans in the Senate to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. Senators in both parties have raised concerns of possible economic upheaval if the U.S. breaches the deadline Thursday to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit so the nation can continue to borrow money to pay for spending Congress has already approved.
"I've talked to several billionaires who used to be Republican supporters that have said they believe the markets will act in a very negative fashion unless we act," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "I'm urging all of our Republicans to recognize reality as to where we are in this situation."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., leaves the Capitol office of his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Oct. 14.(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
Congressional leaders had planned a mid-afternoon meeting with Obama at the White House on Monday, but it was postponed so that the Senate could continue negotiations. Instead, White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors came to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers.
"I think we are (close). I really do. I'm very encouraged and we'll see. We're just waiting for this evening and we'll see what comes about and see if there's a process to get this thing done," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has been part of a bipartisan group of senators trying to find compromise.
Obama on Monday visited Martha's Table, which serves low-income families in Washington, where he spoke with furloughed federal workers affected by the shutdown who have volunteered at the food bank.
Obama denounced what he called Republican "brinkmanship."
"There are going to be differences between the parties," Obama said. "There are going to be differences in terms of budget priorities, but we don't need to inflict pain on the American people, or risk the possibility of America's full faith and credit being damaged just because one side is not getting its way."