A bipartisan accord to reopen the U.S. government and avoid a debt default is taking shape in the Senate as potential U.S. insolvency looms and the federal shutdown enters a third week.
House and Senate Republicans are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss a potential deal that could end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
After a day of talks on Monday, both Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.
Reid told reporters late Monday that there was "tremendous progress" towards a deal. He cautioned that Congress is "not there yet" but predicted Tuesday could be a "bright day."
McConnell said he shares Reid's optimism.
Any deal would have to be approved by both the House and the Senate before being signed by the president.
The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, was spotted Monday leaving McConnell's Senate offices.
At the center of the current talks is a proposal to increase the federal government's debt limit into next year, along with a short-term measure to reopen the government and allow the start of budget negotiations.
If the debt ceiling is not raised by Thursday, the United States may not be able to pay all its bills. President Obama has said this would be a catastrophe for the world economy.
It is unclear if Congress can meet the Thursday deadline even if top Senate Democrats and Republican leaders reach agreement. Conservative hardliners such as Texas Republican Ted Cruz might force a delay in a final vote.
The House also would need to back the plan. Republican leaders are under strong pressure from conservatives who are reluctant to make concessions. Many of them say they will refuse to back any deal that fails to reform President Barack Obama's health care law.
(c) 2012 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.
Original headline: Bipartisan Deal Could End U.S. Shutdown
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