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Senate nears debt limit deal
A tentative breakthrough in negotiations among congressional leaders to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling faces a major test today: approval from the rank and file members of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., worked through the weekend and into this week hammering out the details of a potential compromise. But the fine print of the proposal will face the judgment of Republican lawmakers in the Senate this morning.
Monday's meeting was postponed because of ongoing negotiations, and the White House indefinitely put off a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House Monday afternoon to give lawmakers more time to hammer out the details of a compromise.
Both moves were viewed as positive signs that an end to the government shutdown that has so far lasted 15 days was near. And a deal would also raise the debt limit by the Thursday deadline.
The broad contours of the agreement include funding the government until Jan. 15 and raising the debt limit through mid-February.
Though those terms would take these debates largely off the table though the holiday season, it would only kick the can down the road. Eventually, lawmakers will face a similar need to both extend funding for the government and raise the debt ceiling in 2014.
The deal could also include some provisions that address the president's health care law, but the negotiations notably exclude any of the demands Republicans initially made to either defund or delay the law's central provisions.
It represents an about-face for Republicans who have been saddled in public polling with an overwhelming majority of the blame for the shutdown. And it is unlikely to please Tea Party conservatives who still insist that significant alterations to the Affordable Care Act must be part of any budget deal.
On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the Tea Party charge in the Senate, said he would reserve judgment until he knew the full details of a potential agreement.
"I want to wait to see what the details are," Cruz said.
And a potential deal could face an uphill battle in the House of Representatives.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll Monday found that dissatisfaction with the party is accelerating. Seventy-four percent of Americans disapprove of the Republicans' handling of the budget crisis, compared with 63 percent two weeks ago and 70 percent last week.
The numbers in other polls have also been frighteningly bleak for Republicans. A Thursday NBC/Wall Street Journal poll gave the Republican Party the worst approval numbers in the poll's history. And it found that support for Obama's health care law has improved since Oct. 1, when people could go online to sign up for insurance coverage.