The latest outline of a potential Senate deal to end the fiscal impasse and government shutdown calls for keeping the government funded until Jan. 15 and raising the debt limit through Feb. 15, congressional aides told ABC News today.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are spearheading the negotiations as the White House postponed a planned afternoon meeting with congressional leaders to give them time to do their work.
It is still a moving target, but the plan is the framework for what McConnell and Reid believe could make a deal -- "and avoid repeating this all over again at Christmas," in the words of one top adviser.
But it's unclear how House Speaker John Boehner, who is being advised on the plan, and his Republican conference would react to any Senate deal. Boehner met this afternoon with McConnell for about 30 minutes for "an update on negotiations," a spokesman said.
President Obama today reiterated his belief that Congress has little time to waste.
If House Republicans aren't "willing to set aside some of their partisan concerns in order to do what's right for the country," President Obama warned today, "we stand a good chance of defaulting."
Speaking to reporters during a surprise visit to a Washington food pantry, where he met with furloughed workers who are volunteering as the president pressed to resolve the government shutdown and threat to the debt limit, Obama said, "There has been some progress in the Senate.
"I think House Republicans continue to think that somehow they can extract concessions by keeping the government shutdown or by threatening default," Obama added. "My hope is that a spirit of cooperation will move us forward over the next few hours."
Reid and McConnell, who have sparred for years, expressed similar optimism, taking to the Senate floor this afternoon to say that a deal could be in sight to reopen government and avoid default.
"I'm very optimistic that we will reach an agreement that is reasonable in nature this week" to reopen the government," Reid said.
He said "constructive good faith negotiations continue."
"I deeply appreciate my friend the minority leader for the diligent effort to come to an agreement," Reid said.
For his part, McConnell also used Washington speak -- "my good friend" -- to address Reid.
"We had an opportunity to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward. Those discussions continue and I share his optimism that we're going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides," McConnell said.
Meanwhile, Obama, in shirt-sleeves and an apron alongside volunteers assembling sandwiches, said today, "These are folks who have not been paid, in some cases are very eager to be back on the job but are not even allowed to work. And yet they're here contributing and giving back to the community, and I think that shows the kind of spirit that we have among all kinds of federal workers all across the country. ...
"This is fairly simple and this whole shutdown has been completely unnecessary," he said. "Keep in mind that the problem isn't that the U.S. government has run out of money, the problem is not that our deficits are going up. ... The problem is that we've seen this brinksmanship as a strategy time and time again to try to extract extreme or partisan concessions."
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Reid met privately for a little more than a half-hour today with McConnell, the Republican leader.
As he left the meeting, which was before their Senate comments this afternoon at 2 p.m., Reid said there was no deal, yet.
"We're continuing to work on it." Reid told reporters. "It's not done yet."
Asked whether he thinks they will have an agreement before they head to the White House this afternoon, Reid said, "Sure hope so."
Aides on both sides tell ABC News they are optimistic for getting a deal -- even if it's a short-term one -- but don't know whether it will be today. There is still disagreement on how much to fund the government and whether the deep cuts from sequester will remain.
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