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Can 'World's Greatest Deliberative Body' fix broken Washington?

Senate leaders are meeting Sunday to find a way out the government shutdown and the threat of a first-ever US debt default. They're searching for an end to a political crisis that has stalled all other legislative business while driving public opinion of Congress to new lows.

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid pauses as Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference Saturday. The federal government remains partially shut down and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month.

Evan Vucci/AP

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As two political clocks tick in opposite directions in Washington – the one counting the partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day, and the other noting just four days until the Treasury Department says the US could default on its debt – all eyes are on the US Senate.

“The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body,” as it has been called, was in unusual Sunday session, Speaker John Boehner having given up for now and sent House members home for the weekend.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – who together have more than a half century in the Senate – are searching for a deal to end the political crisis that seems to have stalled all other legislative business while driving public opinion of Congress to new lows.

Let’s review the bidding.

In the Senate on Saturday, Democrats couldn’t generate the 60 votes necessary to bring Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposal to the floor. That would have extended the debt ceiling through 2014. It failed on a party line vote.

For a while, it looked like a bipartisan proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, the moderate Republican from Maine, might be going somewhere. That included a six-month stopgap funding bill through March and a debt ceiling increase through January.

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