“I'm very optimistic that we will reach an agreement that's reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation's bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. McConnell echoed Reid's statement, saying there has been “very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward” and that he shares the Senate leader's optimism on reaching a deal soon.
But what that deal will look like remains unknown. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, essential elements of the agreement could include a short-term spending bill that would re-open the government through the end of 2013 or through the end of January 2014, along with a debt-ceiling extension through a period ranging until either the end of February or March 2014. The agreement is also likely to include a requirement that both chambers of Congress appoint conferees on a budget committee to agree and report on a larger deal before the next short-term budget resolution expires.
Meanwhile, the bargain is expected to include at least something related to the Affordable Care Act with bipartisan appeal. Lawmakers are said to be considering a host of options in their discussions, such as a delay in the ACA's reinsurance tax, which employers pay, and a tightening of income verification to qualify for insurance premium subsidies.
The fate of other ACA provisions—including the 2.3% excise tax on medical devices, the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, Medicare's so-called rural-floor policy, and the federal contribution to members of Congress and their staffers to buy health coverage on the insurance exchange—remained unclear.
The White House had scheduled a meeting with Reid, McConnell and the two leaders in the lower chamber—House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—for 3 p.m. Monday, but postponed the meeting in an effort to give congressional leaders more time to hash out a deal.
A Senate vote could come shortly before the day Treasury says it will exhaust its borrowing authority, which is Thursday. But the prospect of any Senate bill in the Republican-controlled House is unclear.
Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond