Senate leaders said Monday that they were optimistic that they would reach a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit. But time is short, and the House is a wild card.
A planned meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders Monday afternoon was postponed right as the meeting was supposed to take place – but that may actually be a sign that an end is in sight to the debt-limit negotiations as well as the two-week-old government shutdown.
Leadership from both parties expressed optimism that they were nearing an agreement that could end the standoff before Thursday's deadline for raising the debt ceiling, and the White House, while it did not set a new date for the meeting, said in a statement that the meeting was postponed to "allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress towards a solution that raises the debt limit and reopens the government."
Earlier on Monday, Mr. Obama had warned lawmakers that if they don't reach a resolution, the US has "a good chance of defaulting" – which could have devastating economic repercussions.
The Senate has been making steady progress toward a deal, and the current one gaining traction reportedly would fund the government through the end of the year and raise the debt ceiling until mid-February. It would also call for new budget negotiations to happen before the next round of sequestration cuts takes effect, and might make some minor concessions on the Affordable Care Act, including a delay of the tax on medical devices.
Senate leaders from both parties spoke on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, sounding the most optimistic they have since the shutdown began.
“I’m very optimistic that we will reach an agreement that’s reasonable in nature this week,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada said, extending rare praise to his Republican counterpart, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell. “I deeply appreciate my friend the minority leader for his diligent efforts to come to an agreement.”
Senator McConnell also called the negotiations "very constructive" and said that he shares Senator Reid's "optimism that we’re going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides.”
The biggest unknown, of course, is whether the House will go along with a Senate agreement. House Republicans have been the staunchest resisters to any plan to fund the government without significant changes to the Affordable Care Act. But as the shutdown drags on and the deadline for raising the debt ceiling approaches – and polls show that a majority of Americans blame Republicans for the crisis – a bipartisan deal in the Senate would put significant pressure on House Republicans, and on Speaker John Boehner to bring the deal to a vote.