Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, in Washington. The Senate’s top two leaders both expressed optimism Monday that they were closing in on an agreement to prevent a national financial default and reopen the government after a two-week partial shutdown. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Racing the clock, the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders closed in on a deal Monday night to avoid an economy-menacing Treasury default and end the two-week partial government shutdown.
“We’ve made tremendous progress,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared after an intense day of negotiations with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other lawmakers. “Perhaps tomorrow will be a bright day,” he said, suggesting agreement could be announced soon after weeks of stubborn gridlock.
McConnell also voiced optimism — although not as much as Reid, D-Nev., had — and the details under discussion generated little if any satisfaction among rebellious House conservatives.
Officials said that in the discussion to date, the $16.7 trillion federal debt limit would be raised enough to permit the Treasury to borrow normally until mid-February, if not a few weeks longer.
The government would reopen with enough money to operate until mid-January at levels set previously, and agencies would be given flexibility in adjusting to reduced funding levels imposed by across-the-board spending cuts.
Officials cautioned that those details could change, and there was even more uncertainty about other elements of a possible deal.
Under discussion was a one-year delay in a $63 fee imposed on companies by the health care law known as Obamacare for everyone covered by an employer-sponsored plan. By day’s end, though, Republican opposition to the provision placed it in jeopardy — just as Democrats had earlier pushed back against the proposed repeal of a medical device tax contained in the health care Login to read more