Hopes have risen for a congressional agreement that could reopen the U.S. government and avoid a debt default.
As the partial federal government shutdown begins its third week, House and Senate members of both parties are to meet to discuss details of a potential deal.
The accord would increase the federal government's debt limit into early 2014, and would include a short-term measure to reopen the government and allow negotiations to begin on a budget for fiscal 2014, which began on October 1.
After talks Monday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell both expressed optimism. Reid predicted Tuesday could be a "bright day," and McConnell said he shared Reid's view.
Any deal would have to be approved by the full House and Senate before being signed by President Barack Obama.
Debt ceiling deadline
If the debt ceiling is not raised by Thursday, the
The US Debt Limit
United States may not be able to pay all its bills. It is unclear whether Congress can meet that deadline even if Democratic and Republican party leaders reach an agreement in the Senate. Conservative hardliners such as Texas Republican Ted Cruz might force a delay in a final vote.
The House would also need to back the plan. Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans are under strong pressure from conservative congressmen who oppose concessions. Many of them say they will refuse to back any deal that fails to alter the Affordable Care Act, the reform of the U.S. health care system that is now beginning to take effect.
"Constructive good-faith negotiations continue between the Republican leader and me," Senator Reid told reporters Monday. "I'm very optimistic that we will reach an agreement that's reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation's bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on a sound fiscal footing. I deeply appreciate my friend the minority leader for his diligent efforts to come to an agreement."
"Let me just echo the remarks of the majority leader," added his counterpart, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. " We've had an opportunity over the last couple of days to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward. Those discussions continue, and I share his optimism that we are going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides.''
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