WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - The top Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate
said Monday they are close to a deal to avert default and end the
Congressional leaders had planned a
mid-afternoon meeting with President Obama, but it was postponed so that
the Senate could "continue making important progress towards a solution
that raises the debt limit and reopens the government," the White House
Obama, visiting a local food bank, told reporters that if
congressional Republicans don't agree to an increase in the debt ceiling
by Thursday, "we stand a good chance of defaulting."
president still plans to meet eventually with bipartisan congressional
leaders: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Vice President Biden will
also attend the session.
Negotiators have made "progress" on a
deal to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling and reopen the government
after a 14-day partial shutdown, Obama told reporters - but nothing is
final "until the details are done."
Reid and McConnell, the
Senate's top Republican, began talks over the weekend in search of an
agreement that would lift the $16.7 trillion budget ceiling before the
government hits it on Thursday. The deal could also end the partial
government shutdown, which began Oct. 1.
Reid and McConnell appeared together on the Senate floor after
meeting Monday. Reid said "constructive, good faith negotiations
continue" and both leaders expressed confidence a deal would be reached.
"I'm very optimistic we will reach an agreement," Reid said.
"I share his optimism that we will get a result that is acceptable to both sides," McConnell added.
Said the president: "We'll see this afternoon whether this progress is real."
Joe Manchin, who has been part of a bipartisan group of Senators trying
to strike a deal, said Monday afternoon, "I think we are (close). I
really do. I'm very encouraged and we'll see. We're just waiting for
this evening and we'll see what comes about and see if there's a process
to get this thing done."
An agreement by the Democratic-run Senate must also be approved by the Republican-run House.
Republicans ceded negotiations to Senate leaders after Obama rejected
Boehner's most recent offer to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks.
key issue in the current talks is whether the agreement will affect
unpopular, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. Democrats would
like to turn off the cuts for at least two years in exchange for other
spending changes, but Republicans want to maintain the stricter spending
House Republican leaders are scheduled to meet Monday; a full GOP conference meeting is set for Tuesday.
one time, congressional Republicans said they would not vote for a new
spending plan or raise the debt ceiling unless Obama delayed parts of
the new health care law - but those demands have faded in recent days.
Obama warmed up for the congressional meeting by visiting Martha's Table, which serves low-income families in Washington.
a green apron, Obama spoke with furloughed federal workers who have
volunteered at the food bank, praising them for "giving back to the
As for the shutdown and debt ceiling disputes, Obama
denounced what he called Republican "brinkmanship," and put the onus on
the GOP to reach agreement.
"There are going to be differences
between the parties," Obama said. "There are going to be differences in
terms of budget priorities. But we don't need to inflict pain on the
American people, or risk the possibility of America's full faith and
credit being damaged just because one side is not getting its way."
He added: "This whole shutdown has been completely unnecessary."
Contributing: The Associated Press