The rough outlines of a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling emerged Monday as key senators huddled to hammer out the specifics of a possible compromise.
Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they are closing in on an agreement to end a two-week-old government shutdown and stave off a default on the national debt come Thursday.
"We've made tremendous progress. Everyone just needs to be patient," Reid told colleagues on the Senate floor. "We hope that with good fortune and the support of all of you, recognizing how hard this is for everybody, that perhaps tomorrow will be a bright day. We are not there yet. We hope we will be."
"I think it's safe to say we've made substantial progress," McConnell added, calling Monday's talks "a good day."
Senate leadership aides say that the possible deal would lift the debt limit through Feb. 7, re-open the government until Jan. 15 and require a report from bicameral negotiators on the budget by Dec. 13.
The compromise at this point would not involve a repeal of the medical device tax – something Republicans had been pushing for -- but it would give federal agencies more flexibility to implement budget cuts resulting from sequestration.
Republican senators are expected to meet behind closed doors Tuesday morning to discuss the details of the developing agreement.
That meeting was originally scheduled for Monday night but was delayed because as many as nine GOP senators would not be able to attend, aides said.
McConnell did meet in his office Monday with at least a half dozen Republican senators to discuss the proposal, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
If GOP members in the upper chamber sign off on the compromise, the meeting will be a key first step towards the success of any deal, although it is still also unclear how House Republicans will react to the proposal.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor would not comment on the proposal, telling reporters to "stay tuned" and that Republicans in the lower chamber will discuss the Senate plan on Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, the White House indefinitely postponed a meeting between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from both parties to allow more time for negotiations.
Earlier in the day, Obama said he was hopeful that an agreement seemed to be forming.
"I think that there's been some progress on the Senate side with Republicans recognizing it's not tenable, it's not smart ... to let America default," the president said at a local Washington food bank.
The emerging effort builds on an initial proposal spearheaded by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, alhough Democrats rejected the first iteration of her plan. The Collins proposal had called for reopening the government and extending the debt ceiling through January in exchange for several concessions involving Obamacare, including the delay of the medical device tax and income verification measures for subsidies contained within the law.
Jason Reed / REUTERS
President Barack Obama meets U.S. Senate Democrats in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, October 12, 2013.
Still, the continued talks meant Washington is still scrambling to piece together some sort of agreement before the Oct. 17 deadline by which the Treasury Department says Congress must authorize increased borrowing to meet the government’s existing obligations. Moreover, a federal government shutdown that has placed hundreds of thousands of government workers onto furlough and affected millions more Americans entered its 14th day on Monday.
Meanwhile, Boehner, to date the central Republican figure in the shutdown fight, took a backseat to negotiations in the Senate. But Boehner’s importance in the instance of an eventual agreement could be critical, given his longtime struggle to main control of the House GOP’s restive conservative flank.
Even if the Senate were to reach an agreement, history suggests that product would face a treacherous battle to passage in the House. Often in past standoffs, conservatives within the GOP balked at the legislation handed to them by leaders, forcing Boehner to instead court Democrats. If the Boehner is driven to depending on Democrats to pass an agreement on the shutdown and debt limit, he might invite a revolution against him by fellow Republicans.
NBC News' Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.
First published October 15 2013, 1:29 AM