All eyes on Senate to end shutdown
With the government shutdown dragging on and a deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling just five days away, hope for a compromise to break political gridlock in Washington shifted to the Senate Saturday after talks between the White House and House Republicans collapsed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are working to broker a deal, although both sides warn that those conversations are only in the preliminary stages.
Senate Democratic leaders met with President Barack Obama at the White House Saturday afternoon to discuss a way forward. The Senate will be in session on Sunday.
Reid said during a press conference that he and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., opened formal talks with an "extremely cordial" but "preliminary" meeting with McConnell and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Saturday morning.
"I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and the world," Reid said. "This hasn't happened until now."
But the Nevada senator reiterated that Democrats will not view ending the shutdown or raising the debt ceiling as concessions in the negotiations.
"They're not doing us a favor by reopening the government," Reid said of Republicans. "They're not doing us a favor by extending the debt ceiling. That's part of our jobs."
Lawmakers said the talks were cause for some optimism.
"The only thing that's happening right now is Senator Reid and Senator McConnell are talking and I view that as progress," Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters earlier at the Capitol. "I hope that continues towards a bipartisan resolution."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, said there is "reason to believe that ultimately, we'll work it out."
A loose working group of moderate Republicans -- led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine -- had been working on a proposal that would reopen the government until March and lift the debt ceiling through January. But Senate Democratic leaders rejected that idea.
The Collins proposal, Reid said, "is not going to go anyplace at this stage."
Aides said Democrats disagreed with the length of a proposed government funding measure in the Collins proposal. Her plan would have only funded the government until March 31st, 2014. Senate Democrats wanted that time period to be longer.
Democratic leaders also wanted a longer debt limit increase than Collins had proposed, and they had reservations about the amount of spending in the Maine Republican's plan.