Like the House GOP bill, the emerging Senate measure — though not finalized — would reopen the government through Jan. 15 and permit the Treasury to borrow normally until early to mid-February, easing dual crises that have sapped confidence in the economy and taken a sledgehammer to the GOP's poll numbers.
"There are productive negotiations going on with the Republican leader," Reid said as he opened the Senate Tuesday. "I'm confident we'll be able to reach a comprehensive agreement this week in time to avert a catastrophic default."
On Wall Street, stocks were down slightly at midday, as early optimism over a quick deal faded.
The competing House and Senate plans are a far cry from the assault on "Obamacare" that tea party Republicans originally demanded as a condition for a short-term funding bill to keep the government fully operational. It lacks the budget cuts demanded by Republicans in exchange for increasing the government's $16.7 trillion borrowing cap.
Neither the House or Senate frameworks contain any of a secondary set of House GOP demands, like a one-year delay in the health law's mandate that individuals buy insurance.
Another difference between the Democrats and Republicans involves a Democratic move to repeal a $63 fee that companies must pay for each person they cover under the big health care overhaul beginning in 2014. Unions oppose the fee and Senate Democrats are pressing to repeal it, but House Republicans are positioning to block them and Senate Republicans are adamantly opposed as well.
Democrats were standing against a GOP-backed proposal to suspend a medical device tax that was enacted as part of the health care law, but might not be able to win a floor vote since many Democrats oppose the tax too.
Democratic and Republican aides described the outlines of the potential agreement on condition of anonymity because the discussions were ongoing.
But with GOP poll numbers plummeting and the country growing weary of a shutdown entering its third week, Senate Republicans in particular were eager to end the shutdown — and avoid an even greater crisis if the government were to default later this month.
"We're willing to get the government open. We want to get the government open," Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said. "Hopefully they get something done that addresses the spending issue."
In addition to approving legislation to fund the government until late this year and avert a possible debt crisis later this week or month, the potential pact would set up broader budget negotiations between the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate. One goal of those talks would be to ease automatic spending cuts that began in March and could deepen in January, when about $20 billion in further cuts are set to slam the Pentagon.
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, David Espo, Henry C. Jackson, Julie Pace and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
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