Congress leaders hope deal near on government shutdown

By Alan Fram

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

WASHINGTON — Senate and House leaders are expressing optimism that a bipartisan deal may be near that can avert a government shutdown.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday there is no need to close the government.

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he and the chamber's top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have held talks to resolve remaining disputes over extending the Social Security payroll tax, renewing jobless benefits and heading off a shutdown.

Boehner applauded Reid's remarks and said "everybody needs to step back and take a deep breath" — and strike a deal.

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