Hopes rise for budget deal as leaders head to White House

By Justin Sink – 10/14/13 01:43 PM ET

President Obama will meet top congressional leaders on Monday at the White House amid signs that senators could be nearing a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

Obama will meet with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at 3 p.m., a White House official said. Vice President Biden will attend as well.

Reid and McConnell, who took the reins of the fiscal talks over the weekend, huddled for 30 minutes on Monday morning. Asked after the meeting whether Senate leaders would have an agreement to present to Obama, Reid said, “[I] sure hope so.”

“We’re working on everything,” Reid said when asked about the scope of the negotiations. “We continue to work on it. It’s not done yet.”

Still, Reid said he wasn’t sure whether Republicans would accept the Democrats’ latest offer to open the government and raise the debt ceiling.

“Shouldn’t take anything for granted,” he said.

The stock market, which dove Monday morning, began to rebound early in the afternoon as positive signs emerged in the budget talks.

At a food pantry on Monday, Obama said that he hoped “that a spirit of cooperation will move us forward over the next couple of hours.”

“I think there has been some progress on the Senate side with Republicans recognizing it’s not tenable, its not smart, its not good for the American people to let America default,” Obama said.

Obama warned that if there was no compromise from Republicans, the U.S. could default on its debts.

“This week if we don’t start making some real progress — both the House and the Senate — and if Republicans aren’t willing to set aside their partisan concerns in order to do what’s right for the country, we stand a good chance of defaulting, and defaulting could potentially have a devastating affect on our economy,” he said.

Democrats are pushing for a shorter-term spending bill that would reopen the government, coupled with a long-term extension of the debt ceiling. That would allow Democrats to push for a repeal of the automatic cuts from sequestration in the near future.

Republicans, meanwhile, are touting a proposal from GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) that would keep the sequester in place but allow greater discretion in how it was applied. Her plan would also raise the debt limit and change some aspects of ObamaCare.

Democrats have thus far rejected the Collins plan, although lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have indicated that it could serve as the basis for a final agreement.

Republicans said the talks on Sunday had stalled because Democrats were seeking an end to the spending cuts from sequestration.

The original Collins plan would fund the government for six months at an annualized rate of $986 billion, pushing the next deadline for a government funding bill to the spring.

That plan would virtually ensure that another round of automatic sequester cuts take effect on Jan. 1, and Democrats fear they would have little leverage to reverse them.

Centrist senators on Monday signaled that an agreement to end the fiscal impasse could be within reach.

Collins on Monday said senators were “making progress” toward a deal though, they’re “not there yet.”

“We’re going to continue to meet throughout the day. And the conversations have been very constructive. We’re not going to release any details until we have an agreement. I hope we will have an agreement,” Collins said.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has been involved in bipartisan negotiations with Collins, told CNN lawmakers were 70 percent to 80 percent of the way toward an agreement.

Lawmakers are scrambling to raise the debt ceiling before the Thursday deadline. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the government’s borrowing authority will be exhausted on that day, leaving the nation at risk of default.

“There is a lot of concern about whether we’re going to meet this deadline; I think at the end of the day we will,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told NBC News on Monday. “But to do so, we really have to move ahead today with a Senate agreement, and then the House has got to be open to focusing on those things that make our country stronger, which is spending restraints.”

Sen. Jon Tester told CNBC he’s optimistic that senators will find a way out.

“I feel more hopeful now than I have since Oct. 1,” Tester said. “I think both Harry [Reid] and Mitch [McConnell] are talking, and I think it’s going to result in something good.”

The White House has remained mostly silent during the weekend negotiations, save for a phone call between the president and Pelosi on Sunday.

Alexander Bolton contributed.

This story was last updated at 1:43 p.m.

 

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