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Bipartisan Accord to end Shutdown taking shape in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

By, October 15, 2013

A bipartisan accord to reopen the U.S. government and avoid a debt default is taking shape in the Senate as potential U.S. insolvency looms and the federal shutdown enters a third week.

House and Senate Republicans are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss a potential deal that could end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

After a day of talks on Monday, both Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.

Reid told reporters late Monday that there was “tremendous progress” towards a deal. He cautioned that Congress is “not there yet” but predicted Tuesday could be a “bright day.”

McConnell said he shares Reid’s optimism.

Any deal would have to be approved by both the House and the Senate before being signed by the president.

What Does a U.S. Government Shutdown Mean?

  • Large parts of the federal government need to be funded each year to operate
  • If Congress cannot agree on how to fund them, those parts of the government shut down
  • During a shutdown, federal workers are separated into excepted and non-excepted employees
  • Excepted must continue to work, and will be paid when Congress funds the government again
  • Non-excepted are furloughed and not guaranteed to receive back-pay
  • Parts of the government dealing with national security and public safety and those with independent funding like the Postal Service continue to operate
  • Other parts shut down, including National Parks, the EPA and the processing of visa and passport applications
  • The last government shutdown lasted 21 days and ended on January 6, 1996

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, was spotted Monday leaving McConnell’s Senate offices.

At the center of the current talks is a proposal to increase the federal government’s debt limit into next year, along with a short-term measure to reopen the government and allow the start of budget negotiations.

If the debt ceiling is not raised by Thursday, the United States may not be able to pay all its bills. President Obama has said this would be a catastrophe for the world economy.

It is unclear if Congress can meet the Thursday deadline even if top Senate Democrats and Republican leaders reach agreement. Conservative hardliners such as Texas Republican Ted Cruz might force a delay in a final vote.

The House also would need to back the plan. Republican leaders are under strong pressure from conservatives who are reluctant to make concessions. Many of them say they will refuse to back any deal that fails to reform President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Photo credit: Center for American Progress via Photopin, CC

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